Aparna Agrawal and Rick Hoffman boosted the energy efficiency of Michigan's storage infrastructure by deploying new EMC Symmetrix VMAX arrays and solid-state drives.

Guide to Green

Public-sector IT leaders share five strategies for moving toward energy-efficient computing.

A green wave is swirling around the country, and state and local government IT leaders must catch it -- if they haven't already.

"Don't have tunnel vision," advises Greg Schulz, founder of the Server and StorageIO Group IT consultancy. "Look around. There are so many different approaches, tools and technologies to consider for green IT."

State and local IT leaders agree. These experts have embraced a variety of green IT projects, including stretching storage, deploying blade servers, implementing PC power management, building EPEAT standards into procurement and rolling out multifunctional devices. What follows are their suggestions for embarking on the path to energy efficiency.

Maximize Disk Storage

In Michigan, IT leaders have long focused on making the state's storage environment more energy efficient. Lately, the state's IT department has been consolidating onto EMC Symmetrix VMAX arrays -- storage systems that are built to be green -- using solid-state drives as appropriate, says Rick Hoffman, enterprise storage management specialist.

A VMAX array is about one-third the size and uses less power than the state's legacy Symmetrix DMX-3 arrays, adds Aparna Agrawal, director of Michigan's Technical Services Division. "We can take an old footprint of three DMX-3 arrays and meet the same requirements with one VMAX," she says, noting that by spring Michigan will have consolidated nine arrays down to four.

Within the new VMAX arrays, approximately 6 percent of the disk space will be filled with SSDs, Hoffman says. "SSD devices are extremely energy efficient. One SSD probably uses about one-tenth the power of a normal hard drive, and they provide lower latency and much greater efficiency."

Bulk Up on Blades

"You can't go wrong picking blades," says Kevin Stokes, CIO for the town of Brookline, Mass.

Blade computing has factored heavily into the town's ability to reduce power consumption by more than 70 percent in the past two and a half years, Stokes says. It was an easy decision, considering the horsepower required for several four-processor servers, compared with 16 blade servers sharing 10 intelligent power supplies, he says.

Brookline currently has maxed out one chassis with 16 HP ProLiant BL-series blade servers running 34 VMware virtual servers, says Stokes, adding that he expects to add another chassis shortly.

As the migration to blades and virtualization moves forward, Stokes adds, power usage should continue to drop significantly. "That's real dollars that we're able to quantify and put in the budget books while our capacity and footprint are growing."

Put PCs to Sleep

In Santa Monica, Calif., you won't find a PC powered up and chugging away before or after business hours, unless someone is using it.

Instead, the machines are in hibernation mode -- ready to start up at the tap of a key without an operating system reboot, says CIO Jory Wolf. Santa Monica uses Verdiem Surveyor automated power management software, which puts any of the city's 1,800 HP desktops to sleep should they be idle before 6 a.m., after 6 p.m. or for two hours any time in between, he says.

The number of EPEAT-rated desktops, notebooks, monitors and other electronic devices registered in the United States. Of that total, 875 devices have achieved Gold status, the highest designation a product can earn for its environmental attributes.


Since enforcing the sleep mode, rather than having users shut down completely, the city has seen desktop power consumption drop by 31 percent annually. This translates to yearly savings of $28,500, as well as a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions of about 138,000 pounds, Wolf says.

"This is simple to do and offers immediate returns financially as well as for our environment. It's a no-brainer," he adds.

Embrace EPEAT

Elsewhere in California, Palo Alto ensures the greenness of its desktops and notebooks by using the EPEAT standards for evaluating environmental attributes of electronic products, says Lisa Bolger, IT manager.

To get the EPEAT seal of approval, devices must meet 23 required environmental performance criteria. Products then receive Gold, Silver or Bronze designations depending on how many of 28 additional optional criteria they meet, Bolger says.

All of Palo Alto's current desktops, notebooks and monitors are registered EPEAT products, but now the city is moving forward with an all-Gold standard as it replaces older devices, she says.

On the desktop, Palo Alto has standardized on HP Compaq 8000 Elite PCs and HP Compaq LE19f monitors. Users who need notebooks receive Toshiba Tecras or Protégés.

Although the city doesn't have environmental measurements or metrics right now, it is able to compare the EPEAT numbers of the older devices with those of the new devices, Bolger says.

Go Multifunctional

In Illinois, the proliferation of individual imaging devices across state agencies jumped out at IT leaders as they studied ways to go green, says Christine Cegelis, assistant director for the Department of Central Management Services (CMS).

Go to www.statetechmag.com/green410 for advice about launching green IT projects.

"We realized we had too many older, individual devices that were costing us a lot of money and weren't green enough," Cegelis says. "We knew that if we moved to one multi­function printing device, then just the elimination of individual devices would make us greener."

Working toward the industry standard of eight to 10 people per device is a long-term goal, Cegelis notes.

CMS has teamed with the Illinois Green Governments Coordinating Council (GGCC) to challenge all state agencies and personnel to reduce the number of printers, photocopiers, fax machines and scanners in operation. The state has standardized on Lexmark and Xerox multifunction devices, which now must be networked and, as much as possible, set to duplex mode, Cegelis says.

Through this initiative, the state expects to spend less on energy and consumables such as paper and ink, and also on outsourced repairs and internal IT support, Cegelis says. The GGCC estimates that every 10 percent reduction in the use of imaging devices translates to a 1 percent reduction in annual agency expenditures and helps reduce Illinois' carbon footprint.

Saving Trees

Photo credit: Ross Anania/Getty Images

Like any government agency, the city of Palo Alto, Calif., has historically used reams of paper for its business operations.

At one time, for example, the City Clerk's Office distributed city council packets that were several inches thick, says Julie Weiss, environmental specialist for Palo Alto. But the Clerk's Office has since turned to electronic distribution to cut paper use and boost environmental friendliness.

Using the Environmental Defense Fund Paper Calculator to determine an annual benefit, Weiss estimates that eliminating the production of ten 300-page council packets per week:

  • reduced paper use by 1,500 pounds (30 cases, or 300 reams);
  • reduced greenhouse-gas emissions by almost 2 tons;
  • preserved 13 trees (an average tree is 6 to 8 inches in diameter and 40 feet tall). As Weiss says, "One small change can sometimes offer a respectable result over the course of a year."
Scott Stewart
Sep 24 2010