Five tips for CIOs on going green

The best way to approach the green issue is to start small, and then learn and adapt the processes.

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Environmental issues may have captured global attention, but getting businesses to adopt eco-friendly technology will take a little more time.

Philip Carter, IDC's green IT lead for Asia-Pacific, said: "Vendors are creating hype around green IT, which makes it ultimately confusing the market. Ironically, for the most part, IT managers are currently not using eco-friendliness as a criterion for their purchasing decisions.

"And when they do, it is only when cost savings are potentially there, or when they have to due to regulatory requirements," Carter said.

Rakesh Kumar, vice president of Gartner, said the IT department should assume the role of "green technology arbiter" when selecting any form of green technologies for the organization.

"In other words, a large part of the green issue in business will be resolved with new technology products. But selecting these technologies is, and will, increasingly become a complex exercise. This is where the IT group should be used," Kumar said.

For CIOs thinking of going green but are not sure where to start, here are five practical tips to get going:

1. Start small
Industry experts agree that the best way to approach the green issue is to start small, and then learn and adapt the processes.

Rakesh Kumar, vice president of Gartner, said it is "very difficult to differentiate the marketing hype from the actual product benefit". Therefore, he advised IT decision makers to form a small group that will focus on green IT and build a strong knowledge base.

The team can then work with corporate social responsibility (CSR) groups to ensure "long term, holistic strategies are undertaken, rather than short-term product acquisitions", Kumar added.

According to IDC's Carter, since IT managers will have to balance cost and sustainability, it is important that they understand what they are trying to achieve as part of the overall green IT policy. "The next steps are to define what to measure and how to measure it. This is a complex and potentially lengthy process. The best advice woul be to start small," he added.

2. Little things count
Lionel Lim, Sun Microsystems' president for Asia South and Greater China, said IT managers will see a reduction in their data center's energy bill within 30 days of taking these simple steps:

  • Adjust the thermostat set point to 77°F, as per ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) standards
  • ;
  • Identify and turn off unused machines (typically 8 percent to 10 percent of machines)
  • ;
  • Fix air flow problems
  • ;
  • Enable power management features where available
  • ;
  • Refresh old servers. The newer models today are said to be more energy efficient and take up less storage
  • ;
  • Refresh disk technology. That is, instead of buying more storage hardware, simply increase the current capacity. For example, replacing 70GB drives with 500GB will be more cost and energy efficient as it means no additional power requirements and costs
  • ; and
  • Move old data to tape. Tape storage is "greener" and more cost effective than disk storage because disk platters spin continually, with each bit of stored data consuming energy. Tape libraries also outlast most other storage technologies by two to five times, adding to their eco-friendliness.

"To get greater results, it would be ideal to implement all steps," said Lim. "However, if only one step was to be taken, we would recommend turning off unused machines as it can produce dramatic results." A computer on standby is estimated to use 70 percent of its typical power consumption when it is in operational mode.

3. Use labels as a guide
Eco-labels like Energy Star, EPEAT, TCO-Development, Blue Angel are useful guides for evaluating, comparing and selecting technology products.

Simon Mingay, a Gartner analyst, said: "Next year we'll also see Energy Star for servers, which will be a long overdue valuable addition. Look at the criteria used for these eco-labels. They tell you most of what you need to know to be a more informed buyer."

CIOs can also educate themselves on the ways to reduce power usage and lower costs through more efficient computing and data storage practices. Additional resources are available from Lean & Green, a new program developed by the Business Performance Mangaement (BPM) Forum and storage vendor BlueArc.

4. Use tools to get a gauge
IT heads can also use calculators offered by vendors like Sun Microsystems and Dell Computer, to estimate energy consumption needs or power savings.

5. Have the will to change
Bryan Low, AMD's vice president of sales and marketing for South Asia, said going green will require a change in mindset.

"It is easy to write a set of policies but the challenge is in having the will to push the policies through all levels of the organization," Low said. "Starting is always difficult because we are talking about changing mindsets and making certain values integral to the core of an organization."

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