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Benjamin Grimes, Vice President Corporate Strategy and Chief Technology Officer of Avocent Corporation discusses how your organisation can benefit from a green IT strategyAs the concept of corporate social responsibility moves further up the government’s agenda and spiralling energy costs continue to cause concern, environmental issues need to be addressed with a greater degree of resolve. The IT department is a particular focal point as ever-growing IT networks continue consuming more and more power, and automated processes can help maximise Green policies.
Yet Green IT can be a contentious issue, and there are many conflicting opinions on the best way to achieve it. There is, however, one thing that we can be sure of: any solution aiming to reduce power consumption and carbon emissions needs to be more sophisticated than ensuring everyone turns off their computers at the end of the day.
The role of IT configuration
Conflicting, and occasionally misleading, information makes it increasingly difficult for IT staff to decide when and where to apply power management technology to deliver what’s best both for the environment and the organisation.
More specifically, the problem often is one of poor configuration management. In other words, the IT department doesn't fully understand exactly what each server, router, and switch is doing and what dependencies exist among them. We’ve all heard the anecdotal stories of websites crashing and back-ups failing when “someone in IT” turns off a server. In such an environment of uncertainty, IT decides to “do nothing,” choosing to shut nothing down for fear of causing some unforeseen issue.
By implementing a more efficient configuration management policy, organisations can attain a better understanding of their IT systems, and can also effectively manage their composite parts individually. This in turn allows IT staff to manage their IT infrastructure effectively.
Procedures must be adopted to allow the organisation to understand the interdependencies of its IT estate. The risks and impact of power management can be understood by drawing together information about IT assets into one consolidated view and enabling the ongoing tracking of assets throughout their lifecycles.
Avocent’s solutions allow IT directors to keep track of an organisation's computing assets through the entire lifecycle: from procurement, ongoing management and change of IT assets, to their eventual disposal. This kind of information also adheres to mandatory environmental regulations such as the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive.
From reactive to proactive
Organisations need to look at proactive management, notably around planning and modelling, as it relates to growth in the IT “environment.” IT staff need hardware and software tools that understand the actual real-time power consumption in the environment and can model the best location for placing the equipment for the best use and balance of power consumption across the network.
Technologies are available that allow for monitoring and subsequent automated recovery in case of power-based environmental problems. The ability to monitor the environment for situations that can cause a power problem can again move IT management into a more proactive mode of operation.
Today, in a reactive management environment, IT waits until it encounters a problem, tracing back to understand what caused the issue in order to put it right. If there were monitoring tools in place, IT could proactively watch for issues likely to arise before they take hold. Proactive management of power is where the real benefits of these tools and technologies pay big benefits.
Supporting a mobile workforce
The continuing evolution of sophisticated communications technologies is also providing options for organisations to reduce their carbon footprint. These developments are increasing the viability of telecommuting from home or a remote office, in turn enabling organisations to reduce the environmental impact of their daily operations.
UK commuters are are responsible for producing millions of tonnes of CO2 each year, so by enabling staff to work remotely organisations can reduce the impact on the environment as well as easing congestion.
There is, however, one obstacle preventing more organisations from adopting telecommuting: inadequate IT support. IT departments need to ensure that workers have access to a secure remote working environment where they will not suffer downtime caused by IT problems. The key is to put systems in place that allow users (no matter where they’re located) to solve minor IT problems themselves, ensuring that such issues don’t cause work to grind to a halt.
Today, “green IT” solutions are available to help organisations implement and enforce power management policies that deliver substantial, bottom-line benefits, while simultaneously reducing energy use and carbon footprint. In addition, the combination of configuration and power management techniques has been effective at communicating the impact of these measures, while guaranteeing that the conversion to green IT does not have a detrimental effect on other systems.