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|Datamonitor's Rhonda Ascierto|
Prior to the global economic downturn, large organizations may have been content with an ROI over three to five years. Today, organizations are more likely to demand an ROI on green IT investments within the first 12 months. This may not apply to a newly built green data center, but rather to the deployment of green IT solutions.
To facilitate shorter ROI cycles, organizations must first determine the actual efficiency of their data center as a whole. Typically, organizations deploy operational measurement tools in a siloed manner, which makes it more challenging to determine whether or not data center resources are being utilized fully, or 'sweated' to the last percentage. It would be more advantageous to deploy measurement tools as a connected group for all assets within a data center. This will enable green IT efficiencies across the data center and, in turn, shorter ROIs.
In order for vendors to demonstrate a one-year ROI, they must provide technologies that deliver significant savings via dramatic reductions in costly energy usage. The upshot is that green IT is being forced to become greener. It is likely just a matter of time before green IT becomes synonymous with cost-effective IT. Are tools available to measure green IT ROI?
Organizations that face critical data center limitations (such as a shortage of floor or rack space) have more cost-effective workarounds than replacing expensive data center equipment. Virtualization software, in particular, is becoming a primary method for organizations to maximize data center utilization rates. For every 10 servers that are virtualized, nine can be eliminated on average because of the additional computing power that virtualization harnesses. Virtual servers are typically the ones that are most energy efficient.
Roughly half of the power consumption of an average data center (if such a thing exists) is used on cooling, so this is an obvious target for reduction. In this economy, organizations are eagerly seeking ways to lower hardware power consumption as a way to lower costs. The green benefits of this strategy are mostly considered as an added bonus, yet because data center cooling is responsible for such a relatively large carbon footprint, it is widely considered as an important green IT initiative.
There are approaches that data center managers can take to re-engineer operations -- rather than "rip and replace" -- including hot and cold aisles, blanking panels to separate cold and hot areas, fresh-air cooling, dampeners in data center floors and the provisioning of equipment that runs at higher temperatures. IT departments should decommission energy-inefficient servers, particularly those that are dedicated to run specific, low-demand applications. This is essential, given that estimates of server utilization in mostly nonvirtualized environments are as low as 5% to 10%. Greater virtualization of assets throughout the data center will enable more decommissioning of older assets.
Beyond the data center, client device power management is an example of how organizations can improve their operational (and green) performance with relatively modest budgets. Power management software enables organizations to automatically power down client devices during off-usage, such as at night. The machines can be automatically woken up over a local area network (LAN) as needed for remote maintenance, repair and security patching. Vendors estimate that this can save organizations as much as 30% in energy costs.