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CIOs get payback through green technology solutions

Green technology solutions aren't just about sustainable computing. CIOs can save their budget through a green initiative as well.

There are two ways to measure green technology solutions. First, you can think about the word green in the context of financial resources. Second, and more common, you can think of green as a descriptor for something that is intended to have an environmental benefit of some kind. In many cases, both green initiative paradigms are inextricably linked. Organizations that proactively consider environmental initiatives will often see direct bottom line benefits as a result.

Scott Lowe, Contributor

Scott Lowe

Let's look at the most beneficial options for your company's next green initiative.

Converged green technology solutions
The fewer pieces of hardware you operate, the less power you generally need to run the organization. There was a day when you might have needed eight network adapters in each server, along with individual cables running to each network interface card (NIC) and a pair of Fibre Channel adapters installed in the server. Remember, with eight NICs and cables comes a need for eight Ethernet ports to which to connect these cables. As you add servers, that Ethernet switch port count will skyrocket, requiring ever more equipment to support communications.

Today, there are green technology equipment and software solutions on the market that enable organizations to accomplish their goals with far fewer cables and far less communications equipment. In fact, with the decreasing cost of 10 Gb Ethernet, companies can move to virtualized I/O services that maintain, and sometimes even improve, current service levels -- while significantly decreasing their power consumption. With fewer network switches comes a lower utility bill. Further, with fewer cables often comes better airflow – which is crucial for cheaper data center cooling.

CIOs can replace existing, power-starved thick PCs with thin clients that practically sip electricity.

Virtualize everything
Every physical device you implement requires power. As you remove equipment, you reduce the power and cooling loads. This is where virtualization can be a big deal. If you've avoided virtualizing some of your heftier applications, consider moving in this direction as a green initiative. Modern hypervisors are capable of supporting all but the most massive of workloads. They allow organizations to run multiple workloads on the same server. With the right virtualization solution in place, resources can be dialed up and down on demand, enabling IT managers to target the right amount of resources to business workloads.

Server virtualization has been very common as a green technology solution, but for organizations that are serious about green IT, there are significant opportunities at the desktop level. With VDI, CIOs can replace existing, power-starved thick PCs with thin clients that practically sip electricity. In fact, some newer terminals work using Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), enabling IT managers to centrally plan for power needs.

Obviously, before embarking on a VDI green technology solution, CIOs must perform a comprehensive needs analysis. Energy savings shouldn't be your sole driver for these kinds of green initiatives, just one of several factors.

Go solid-state
Are you still buying rotating disks to fill the performance needs of your organization's storage? Stop! Well, at least slow down. Consider the strategic implementation of solid-state disks (SSD), which provide massive performance but little capacity. When these disks are implemented alongside rotational storage -- in what is known as a hybrid storage system -- organizations enjoy the best of both worlds. They get much of the performance benefit of SSD storage and the capacity benefit of rotating disks.

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From a green initiative perspective, rotating disks require much more power than SSD. If you can reduce the number of rotating disks that you need, you'll see a direct savings on the energy bill. Also, when compared on a dollars-per-IOPS basis, SSDs are almost always less expensive than rotating disks.

Consider implementing more modular systems
It's not uncommon for CIOs to somewhat overbuild environments to account for future growth. After all, many data center investments are expected to last a number of years and, for many, a lot of equipment is replaced and needs to run for a while.

However, that "future proofing" can cost real money today. Instead, companies should consider implementing more modular systems that enable IT managers to pay as they grow. Many vendors are now selling such solutions, which come as prepackaged units of infrastructure. Better yet, in addition to the possibility of green savings, companies buying such infrastructure units enjoy single-vendor support and other benefits.

Let IT keep some "green" savings
In many companies, when savings are achieved, those savings are returned back to the business to be reallocated to new needs. Incentivize green initiative savings and allow the IT department to retain a percentage of whatever savings can be achieved from green initiatives. Allow the IT department to spend these funds on discretionary -- but business-focused -- tools and services. This simple and relatively inexpensive gesture will enable IT staff to undertake some small "of interest" projects that might result in further green initiative savings or opportunities.

When addressed in a comprehensive way, green technology solution savings can be substantial, but in order to be fully realized, I believe that there needs to be some kind of incentive. A multipronged approach to energy savings and other green technology solutions will yield the best results. However, any green initiative will be better than what you're doing today.

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What is the best bang for the buck for green initiatives?