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Green IT Goals, Actions Far Apart

It's hard to "go green" or pursue eco-friendly IT policies when you don't know how much energy you're consuming. Unfortunately for U.S. firms, that's precisely the shape they're in, according to a new survey from reseller giant CDW Corp.

When it comes to green IT, according to CDW, there's a credibility gap between what enterprises are saying about energy efficiency and what they're actually doing about it.

According to CDW's new Energy Efficient Information Technology (E2IT) Report, while an overwhelming majority (94 percent) of IT executives say they care about energy efficiency, many simply don't know how much energy they're using.

More to the point, the E2IT survey indicated, IT executives aren't exactly putting their money -- their budget dollars -- where their mouths are when it comes to green IT. When prioritizing purchasing decisions, CDW found, energy efficiency is frequently passed over in favor of other considerations -- only slightly more than one-third (34 percent) of IT chiefs actually make purchasing decisions on the basis of energy efficiency.

CDW points out that even when IT organizations do buy energy-efficient gear, many of them aren't wringing as much as they can from it -- ignoring, for example, embedded power management tools or other "green" amenities.

Take Energy Star 4.0 certification, for example. It describes a power-management feature set achieved by many desktop PCs. Even in cases where shops prioritize the purchase of Energy Star 4.0-compliant desktop systems, most (62 percent) aren't using the included power management tools.

The good news, CDW said, is that IT chiefs are aware of the problem. They're starting to push for more insight into their own energy consumption habits, along with more information from vendors (to make it easier to identify energy-efficient equipment options), and -- of course -- the development of industry standards to help codify the dos and don'ts of energy-efficient IT.

"While energy efficiency has become a 'motherhood' value in IT -- more than 90 percent of IT buyers say they care about it -- there is often much uncertainty about what to do, primarily because good information is severely lacking," said CDW Vice President Mark Gambill in a statement.

"The first step in reducing energy consumption is to know what you are spending, yet more than 40 percent of technology professionals say they don't see their organization's energy bill," he said.

Even in the absence of clear industry standards -- or straightforward information from vendors, for that matter -- some IT shops are cutting energy costs, CDW found. Almost two-fifths (39 percent) of shops with energy management initiatives were able to reduce their total IT energy costs, in some cases by up to as much as 40 percent, through

  • purchasing equipment with low-power or low-wattage CPUs,
  • purchasing Energy Star 4.0-compliant devices,
  • creating policies (and training employees) to power down equipment when it isn't in use, and
  • consolidating servers and ratcheting up their use of virtualization to boost overall utilization rates.

Significantly, the shops that are saving money take advantage of the native power management tools or features that ship with everything from desktop computers to datacenter-class uninterruptible power supplies.

"Organizations that are successful at reducing IT energy costs dig deeper, attacking the problem more consistently across all facets of their IT systems than other organizations do," Gambill said. "More than 90 percent of them take ownership of their energy bill and advocate efficiency improvements throughout IT operations."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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