Green IT for Finance Operations

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Finance organizations that have incorporated green IT practices into their operations achieve more than a pat on the back for saving the world. They stand to save significant money through lower energy bills and ensure that they continue in business when economic growth (eventually) returns.

According to an EPA report to Congress in 2007, an IT data center consumes as much as 25 times more energy than a typical office building. The obvious conclusion: Energy efficiency efforts aimed at IT pay off bigger than those targeted elsewhere in the office.

Finance generally isn't considered an IT energy hog. However, it can be. End-of-month or -quarter closings can make large demands on the IT systems. Similarly, the annual budget marathon can strain IT systems. Finally, sophisticated risk analysis, such as complex Monte Carlo simulations, can run for days and bring even powerful servers to their knees. So, the finance department isn't completely blameless when it comes to running up IT energy bills.

Despite the recession and the current (temporarily) lower oil prices, companies continue to invest in green IT initiatives. According to a recent Gartner study, more than one-third of respondents (46 percent in Europe, 38 percent in Asia/Pacific and 36 percent in the U.S.) anticipated spending more than 15 percent of their IT capital budgets on green IT projects.

Leading IT industry analyst Greg Schulz, author of The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press, 2009), points out that green IT is more than about lower energy bills, as attractive as that may be. Rather, for many organizations it may come down to having enough energy at all. “Green initiatives need to be seen in a different light, as business enablers as opposed to ecological cost centers,” Schulz writes.

There isn't an organization today that doesn't depend on IT in some form or another, if only for email. When you can't get more power, you can't grow. I recently interviewed a midsize company in Tennessee that was informed by the electric utility there that it couldn't deliver even one more kilowatt of power to the facility without incurring a huge tab for running cables and installing transformers.

Faced with the cost of either moving the organization to another state or picking up the utility's huge tab, it began scrambling to reduce energy consumption even while it continued to add IT capacity. It succeeded by upgrading to new, energy-efficient IT equipment and by virtualizing workloads, which reduced the number of physical systems it needed and increased the utilization of the systems that remained.

In his book, Schulz outlines a comprehensive strategy that involves sophisticated analysis to produce green IT and provides new metrics and methodologies to get you there. The basics, however, are pretty straightforward:

• Consolidate IT to boost utilization;

• Virtualize as much as possible;

• Upgrade to new energy efficient devices.

All of the major IT hardware vendors -- IBM, HP, Sun, Dell, and NetApp -- have been rushing reduced-energy-footprint products to market. Even lesser-known vendors like BlueArc, Compellent, iStor Networks, and others now offer energy-efficient products that consolidate, virtualize, and otherwise drive higher utilization at lower energy consumption.

Green IT is not about doing good. It is about saving real money and, more important, ensuring that the organization will have the energy that it needs to support future growth. ###

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