The ROI of green IT

A look at a few of the green-technology projects that, at the right organization, could deliver an impressive ROI

1. Desktop-power management

For every PC and monitor left on at your company 24/7, you're paying between $25 and $75 more per year on power bills. Yes, you may have reasons to keep those machines on, such as being sure they're properly backed up and patched after hours, but by investing in PC power management solutions from companies such as 1E, BigFix, Kace, or Verdiem, you can set policies to ensure that machines automatically power down when they're not in use and get woken up for patching, backup, and so forth.

So let's see: Multiply $50 per year times the number of machines throughout your organization. Compare that to the cost of the licenses for the software. The ROI there shouldn't be too tough to calculate. The environmental benefits are pretty obvious: Less power waste means fewer carbon emissions.

2. Server virtualization

A server virtualization project can be complex. It also might not suit the needs of your organization. Caveats aside, it has the potential to bring significant green benefits to your organization.

Numerous companies have large server rooms or datacenters filled with pricey servers, many of which spend the majority of their days mostly unused yet nonetheless drawing power from the wall and adding heat to the environment.

The idea behind server virtualization is to move the workloads from underutilized servers and consolidate on far fewer machines. I've seen case studies of successful server virtualization projects through which organizations have managed to transfer the work of 1,000 servers down to 270, or 260 machines onto 11.

Considering the costs of not only powering servers but also cooling them, this kind of effort can result in big savings on your power bills. It can also save money on future hardware investments -- and spare the environment the greenhouse gas emissions that would have gone into running and chilling those extra machines.

3. Thin provisioning

Thin provisioning is a storage strategy touted by Hitachi Data Systems, HP, and other vendors. The premise behind the technology is pretty straightforward: It lets IT admins view all of their storage hardware as a great big pool and divvy up slices as needed, rather than allocating separate arrays for different business units that might not be taking full advantage of the pricey hardware you've set aside for them.

The result, if all goes well: You can purchase just enough storage machinery to meet your organization's collective needs, which means you're paying less money for arrays running at 20 per cent utilization while you pay for 100 per cent of their drives to spin. Once again, you get a cost savings and an environmental benefit. (Notably, thin provisioning isn't the only storage strategy that can result in cost savings and eco-friendly benefits.)

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