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Saving Energy at the Enterprise

I asked Dave Hart, EVP and CTO for Presidio Networked Solutions, a VAR, to read my article, "The Greening of VoIP" in the December 2007 issue of Business Communications Review and comment on the state of his customers' energy thinking.

Dave's first comment was that the green thinking started to surface in 2007. IT executives started to proactively address the issues of energy conservation. A publicly traded enterprise is more likely to move forward, while the private enterprises are slower to embrace the green planning. The larger enterprises are more likely to pursue energy issues than the smaller enterprises, according to Dave.

I asked Dave about the green IT commitments. He commented that "energy savings are an influence in IT decisions but most enterprises have not made a major commitment to the green movement".

Dave went on to say, "The first area considered is the server farm. Virtualization of the applications on the servers can reduce the expansion of the servers and thereby keep the energy usage in check. When a server is used less than 50% to 60%, then virtualization should definitely be considered." Dave mentioned that companies like Sun have progressed considerably in the energy reduction of their products with new servers and thin client technologies. He noted that Microsoft is also pursuing the thin client with Longhorn 2008.

The RFPs that Presidio receives do ask about power and cooling requirments. Dave said, "It is hard to determine if the energy information will be used to reduce consumption or it is being used for facilities planning. The RFPs appear to be considering the next 2 to 3 years and not beyond."

Large and mid-size enterprises are paying a lot of attention and are initially looking to lower their server energy consumption and increase virtualization. The energy-reducing model is moving more to the commodity computing applications that are necessary for everyday operation but not usually new applications.

There does not seem to be an effort to replace high power consumption servers. These servers will be replaced as they age, therefore the energy hungry servers may be around for 20 to 48 months before they are refreshed. Dave does not see energy costs as part of the enterprise ROI. The TCO, however, is more sensitive to the energy costs.

Dave commented on the SMB market: "Energy issues for the smaller enterprises have less of an impact on equipment decisions. The decisions are more driven by management and ownership considerations." He expects that SMBs will become more conscious of energy savings because of a trickle-down effect as the equipment vendors offer more lower-energy consumption products.

Companies typically pay little attention to power and cooling in the closets for energy reduction. Dave said, "It is common that closet energy costs are absorbed by the offices where the closet is resident, not billed to IT. So there is very little knowledge of the closet energy bill. Therefore, there is little consideration for energy conservation as part of the closet equipment procurement".

I asked Dave about UPS usage. He noted that nearly 100% of his customers, large and small, have UPS for their data centers. Most closets do not have UPS except those closets that support PoE, especially for VoIP.

The movement to reducing energy costs is starting as a cost saver, but I think the social and environmental goals will become more important. They may even equal the costs savings in importance. The IT department will have to be more proactive about energy usage and reduction in the future.