March 2008: Strategy + Innovation

Agency CIOs focus on consolidation, optimization, procurement and recycling to reduce the environmental impact of their operations.

lbemarle County, Va., plans to reduce its energy usage 30 percent over the next five years. To help it achieve that goal, the county is purchasing energy-efficient computers and other electronic gear. During work hours, all PCs have the power-saving mode enabled; at night, all computers, printers and copiers are turned off.

Like Albemarle County, a growing number of cities, counties and states seek ways to improve the energy efficiency of their IT operations. Environmental issues have become a bigger priority for citizens, who want public institutions to reduce their consumption of energy, water and other natural resources. Meanwhile, energy costs are escalating and cash-strapped agencies are looking for ways to keep budgets down.

IT is a prime focal point because a typical data center consumes up to 40 times more power per square foot than other commercial buildings, according to the Uptime Institute consulting firm.

Here is a look at how state and local government agencies are going green.

Recycle and Reuse

Another way to green your IT shop is to recycle old computers, cell phones and other electronic gear at the end of their useful life. Here’s a sampling of government-sponsored donation and recycling programs.

E-cycle St. Louis: Sponsored by the St. Louis–Jefferson Solid Waste Management District and Missouri Department of Natural Resources, this consumer-electronics recycling program offers 10 collection sites. The California Integrated Waste Management Board runs this Web site, which lists hundreds of locations where Californians can drop off electronic devices for recycling. The Indiana Recycling Coalition built this site to encourage Hoosiers to recycle televisions, computers and cell phones. The e.Scrap educational program is a nonprofit organization that includes among its sponsors the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Acquisitive Nature

More than 450 organizations across the country have signed up to take the Energy Star challenge, which is a commitment to improve the energy efficiency of commercial and industrial buildings by at least 10 percent.

Consolidation Is Key

Colorado announced plans to reduce the number of data centers and servers it operates. “The latent effect of this consolidation effort is power savings,” says John Conley, deputy CIO for the Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology.

Operational Optimization

The Center for Digital Government’s report, Simply Green: A Few Steps in the Right Direction Toward Integrating Sustainability into Public Sector IT, offers advice on going green.

Take a holistic view in assessing energy use. Albemarle County, Va., is implementing an environmental management system to reduce the impact of its daily operations, says Sarah Temple, environmental compliance manager for the county.

Consider power efficiency when scheduling server workloads. The state of Tennessee is considering power efficiency in its server consolidation effort. CIO Mark Bengel points out that connecting servers to a storage area network eliminates the waste of unused local disks spinning. “Now that we have consolidated storage, we can spin up disks as needed.’’

Choose platforms based on energy consumption and utilization. Look for Energy Star–compliant equipment, including PCs and printers.

Compare blade servers and rack servers based on computing capacity and power and cooling requirements. Tennessee takes energy efficiency into account when buying servers. “We’ve leveraged AMD chips in our servers because they are very energy efficient,’’ says CIO Mark Bengel.

Measure and monitor the energy consumption of servers at least once a year. State and local agencies are just beginning to run energy audits on their data centers and IT operations.

Use the operating system to ration the voltage going to the processor. The state of Colorado automatically sets employee PCs on power-saving mode. “We use a product from Citrix, called PowerFuse, to regulate the settings of the computers to hibernation mode,’’ says John Conley, deputy CIO for the Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology.

Tap energy-efficiency metrics and models developed by industry initiatives, such as The Green Grid. Few state or local government agencies are using such initiatives, but this is an area to watch.

Adapt performance dashboards to reflect sustainability measures. Focusing on sustainability is new for state and local CIOs, but any steps along these lines are met positively by the electorate.

Mar 27 2008