Irrespective of people's stance on the climate change debate, there is no getting around the fact that the green agenda is one that companies of all sizes can no longer ignore.
“This need is even more accentuated in South Africa where energy costs are expected to climb appreciably in the coming years, therefore bringing the issue into sharp focus for all business owners and managers,” says Rohil Dayaram, pre-sales technical advisor at Think iT Solutions.
“This issue, in particular, will have a direct impact on their bottom line performance while forcing companies to adopt a longer term view on how they apply their ICT systems. There are short-term gains to be had around power consumption, but the longer term impact can also be reduced by introducing simple, cost-effective processes.”
Think iT is well placed to help companies direct their focus on implementing systems and processes to reduce their consumption, while adopting the longer-term vision of how they can reduce their impact on the environment.
Dayaram suggests that one of the areas of greatest energy consumption savings lies in assessing the needs of a company's users and whether they require the processing power that sits on the desktop.
“Desktop virtualisation (VDI) is really coming into its own with developments over the past number of years giving companies unprecedented choice without sacrificing performance,” he says.
“Whether this virtualisation is realised through centralised, company-owned infrastructure or cloud computing services, managers can no longer argue that the size of the company prohibits them from significant enough savings to justify changing their systems. Size is irrelevant in this game – everyone can and should be looking at their consumption and carbon footprint and making concrete plans to reduce both.”
Dayaram says desktop virtualisation options now include a range of configurations from the so-called 'fat' and 'thin' clients to. With 'zero’ clients representing the most cost-effective system as its lack of moving parts reduces power consumption to as low as 4W, whereas more conventional systems generally use up to 200W of power.
“The upfront investment may be considered restrictive, but the long-term savings far outweigh this, while the impact on the environment is largely negated.” says Dayaram.
This is due to the longer lifecycle of the zero client equipment, which typically is closer to 6-10+ years compared with the 3-4 years of conventional desktop PCs. Investment in upgrades and new services are then also restricted to the back-end system, requiring investment only in one area versus across 20 or more workstations.
This reduction in infrastructure that has to be maintained has wider cost implications as other costs associated with operating a host of heavy-duty and capacity machines is significantly smaller. Both office and server room cooling requirements are known to have been reduced by applying such an approach.
“There is a lot that can be done to run facilities such as server rooms far more efficiently – whether that be in cooling systems or simply the volume of equipment that is required. One of the smartest solutions is to run in-rack cooling rather than trying to keep the entire server room environment cool. Alternatively, a simple solution is to adjust the cooling requirements according to the usage of the equipment; why run the air conditioning at full capacity when the servers are under-utilised outside of office hours, for example,” argues Dayaram.
It is also worth investing in systems designed to automatically reduce consumption by building intelligence into devices that are traditional power-hogs. Technologies such as EMC's spin-down feature that reduces the spin rate of drives when not under load is one example of how vendors are making a contribution to their customers' consumption.
He adds that the same principle applies to users' awareness of what they can do on a daily basis to reduce their demand on resources.
“Not switching off machines, monitors or even sessions on the server while staff are not in the office is criminal,” he suggests. “Every person can make a contribution by being aware of their own personal usage patterns and consumption, and reducing this by even a few Watts will go a long way to making an entire organisation more energy efficient.”
Companies' ability and willingness to adopt a greener stance toward their ICT systems and usage is being aided by initiatives such those by vendors such as EMC, although Think iT is also making its own efforts.
“The disposal of defunct equipment is an area that a lot more work can be done, and we have made major strides in this regard,” says Dayaram. “For example, we have partnered with Xperien, the only company authorised to dispose of highly-toxic CRT monitors in an eco-friendly way.
“We therefore undertake to dispose of customers' old equipment – whether they be PCs, notebooks, printers or monitors – and provide them with a certificate that the equipment has been disposed of in an environmentally ethical manner.”
He concludes by calling on the collective consciousness of all business owners and managers to take active and concrete steps to align their entire organisation with these principals for the greater good of all.