The Green IT Stars of 2010

This year's crop of Green 15 winners demonstrates how organizations of all sizes are finding innovative ways to use information technology to achieve critical and often complementary environmental and business objectives.

1 2 3 4 5 Page 3
Page 3 of 5

Beyond the challenge of developing this application itself, Intel's engineers also had to convince end-users that they could relinquish their computing resources without fear. "Design teams were often initially reluctant to give up resources they already had and believed doing so would impact their productivity. iSHARP allowed us to communicate the same information our IT engineers saw directly with the customer," said Meneely.

"We often offered to keep the targeted systems available offline for a period of time in case the customer determined they really did need it. After a period of time, confidence grew with our customers that we could accurately measure and remove systems without impacting their productivity," Meneely concluded.

The effort proved remarkably successful. In the span of about 12 months, Intel reduced the size of its targeted server pools from 14,000 machines to under 9,000, a reduction of 35 percent. Another 2,700 servers were reallocated to more productive purposes, and 2,300 were removed entirely. The removal of those machines helped Intel shed over 8 million kWh and save $645,000 on energy costs. From a business perspective, the project helped Intel boost the efficiency and capacity of its IT environment -- without hurting productivity.

Meneely said he is now involved in an effort called LEAF, which will build on the lessons learned from iSHARP to provide detailed data for each application within Intel's interactive environment. That, in turn, will help Intel further optimize its resource allocation.

Iron Mountain finds limestone a natural fit for data center efficiencyGeothermal and subterranean conditions of former limestone mine yield significant savings on cooling

Twenty-two stories below ground, deep within the secure confines of a former limestone mine in Pennsylvania, resides Room 48, Iron Mountain's state-of-the-art underground data center. Designed by Iron Mountain vice president of engineering Chuck Doughty, the facility takes advantage of the natural properties of the subterranean location to help the data storage and security company put a dent in its significant energy costs.

"A major challenge was helping our engineers and equipment suppliers understand the basic physics, thermodynamics, and electrical transformation and distribution of this unique location and how they could be leveraged -- and not just apply typical data center designs that have been used for the last 25 years," said Doughty.

The location's geothermal and subterranean conditions open up opportunities for energy reduction that you wouldn't find in a traditional data center. For starters, the natural temperature of the facility is between 55 and 65 degrees, so Room 48 benefits from free cooling. Ducting above the servers pushes air down naturally, using far less power than would be necessary to blow air upward, as a traditional data center would.

Iron Mountain also employs a cold-air containment strategy, which uses the limestone walls and ceiling vents to cool wires and cables hanging above the server racks to increase cool-air distribution by up to 20 percent. At the same time, air pressure differentials force warm air from the servers up and out through perforated ceiling tiles. Room 48 (which gets its name from its location on the underground facility map) has no need for raised floors found in traditional data centers, thanks to the natural limestone walls' ability to absorb 1.5 BTUs per square foot per hour.

Mother Nature alone isn't responsible for the efficiency gains of the facility. As part of the design, Iron Mountain located the power distribution and air conditioning equipment outside of the facility, resulting in a further reduction in heat while freeing up 30 percent more space for racks.

Room 48 uses motion-sensor, low-power, low-heat lighting to further reduce temperature and costs. Additionally, Iron Mountain opted to purchase run-of-the-mill K-rated transformers and electrical load centers in the data center, the kind you'd find in an everyday electric supply store, rather than pricey electrical equipment typically used in data centers. The company also incorporated readily available, energy-efficient T8 fluorescent bulbs into its lighting scheme.

Iron Mountain's efforts paid off in spades. The company estimates that Room 48 cost about 30 percent less to build than a traditional data center because of its energy-efficient design and use of standard equipment instead of specialty gear. The various efforts to slash cooling save the company hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Moreover, the natural cooling allows Iron Mountain to boost power in the room to 200 watts per square foot, 50 percent above the 125 watts per square foot used in data centers located in the same underground facility.

"Room 48's design and construction provided a powerful lesson in discarding prior data center design templates and leveraging the natural advantages this unique location provided," said Doughty. "Future Iron Mountain data centers will use the lessons of Room 48 to help design, construct, and operate the most cost-effective data centers, utilizing the geothermal cooling of the underground."

KPMG scores sky-high savings with telepresencePart of a companywide green IT makeover, KPMG sheds 100 metric tons from its carbon footprint by reducing air travel

When browsing KPMG's internal travel portal to plan a face-to-face meeting, employees will sometimes find a pleasant alternative to booking energy-sapping, time-consuming flights: booking time in one of the company's 16 HP Halo telepresence studios. Not only does that approach spare workers the stress and jet lag of air travel, it's helped the massive accounting corporation achieve its goal of employing technology to cut costs and reduce its carbon footprint.

According to Darren McGann, green IT manager at KPMG, air travel accounts for 60 percent of the company's overall carbon footprint, which is why the company has made a determined effort to promote telepresence usage among employees. "Within a month of integrating Halo into our travel portal, we saw a 30 percent increase in its usage," said McGann. "Once employees use telepresence, the technology sells itself and employees who use Halo become the biggest promoters of the technology."

KPMG staff have grown to appreciate telepresence for a variety of reasons. "Employees continue to use it not only as a cost-savings measure but because of the social benefits they discovered from their initial experience," McGann said. "Users have said that it allows them to maintain closer relationships with global teams and decrease frequency of travel, thus improving their work-life balance. And it makes them feel good about working for KPMG since the firm has these technologies available."

Beyond boosting productivity and morale, telepresence has helped KPMG achieve its financial and environmental goals. The company has shaved a cool $1 million from its travel budget and 100 metric tons from its total carbon footprint.

If telepresence isn't an option, the Green Travel Advisor within the travel portal directs employees to hotels that comply with the key environmental guidelines of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

In addition to telepresence and the Green Travel Advisor, KPMG monitors both its data center and its 88 remote offices' computing facilities for compliance with ASHRAE's updated temperature recommendations. Monitoring the remote locations entails using a BMC Performance Manager Patrol agent to collect router intake temperatures from the various offices via SNMP. That data is then graphed for trending purposes, helping to identify areas to implement tighter controls to save energy and operating costs.

"Collecting and monitoring more data points allowed us to safely raise the temperature setting to 74 Fahrenheit, which in turn enabled us to reduce our CRAC energy consumption up to 15 percent," said McGann. "The monitoring provides more response time to a spike in temperature and also alerts us when there is a temperature drop and therefore waste of electricity."

KPMG has also developed an IT Sustainable Procurement Standard, a joint effort between IT and the company's procurement department, requiring that new IT hardware meet Energy Star and EPEAT standards. The procurement standard will result in a predicted energy savings of over a half million kWh for 2009 purchases alone, along with huge reductions on GHG emissions, water usage, and general materials.

McGann attributes much of KPMG's sustainability success to the support it's received from upper management. "There needs to be buy-in from an organization's leadership to successfully implement green initiatives," he said. "It often helps to secure this buy-in by presenting a business case for green IT initiatives that demonstrates not only the cost savings, but the environmental impact."

Palo Alto takes a unified approach to shattering carbon-cutting goals Pulling data from myriad sources into a single management system equips city to intelligently monitor sustainability efforts

The city of Palo Alto, Calif., is well known in technology circles as the home base for high-tech companies such as HP, Facebook, and VMware. Thus, it's rather fitting that the city government embraced information technology to help meet the City Council's challenge of shrinking the town's carbon footprint.

Initially, the city's 13 different departments worked independently to meet their respective assigned carbon budgets, using spreadsheets, various allocation methods, and calculation tools to track environmental data such as consumption of water, electricity, and natural gas. Not surprisingly, this go-it-alone approach proved insufficient; the city determined a unified approach was necessary. To that end, the city implemented a third-party energy and environmental management SaaS offering from Hara, which has proven instrumental in monitoring the city's 160 ongoing projects pertaining to areas of sustainability management, energy consumption, and water and natural-gas use.

City staffers manually input past and present data about various sustainability-oriented projects, but much of the other data flows into Hara via outside systems. For example, hundreds of meters track consumption of electricity, natural gas, and water, which is delivered into Hara via SAP's utilities billing module. The purchasing data for paper and other tracked consumables is downloaded into Hara through the city's SAP financial system.

Fleet fuel usage data is collected each time a vehicle refills at the city's municipal service center through RFID technology in each vehicle. That data flows into the fleet management system, which in turn generates input files for the Hara system.

All of that data can then be sliced and diced in any number of ways to determine progress at a granular project-by-project basis or at a broad level, such as how many gallons of water have been saved citywide between 2008 and 2009. "We are now able to monitor the progress of each project and its costs, as well as isolate the appropriate meter readings, purchasing data, etc., to evaluate the effectiveness of each project," said Karl Van Orsdol, sustainability team and energy risk manager for Palo Alto. "Each [project] report allows all departments to see how quickly and effectively the project is implemented and what the impacts are. Departments can then use this to implement their own initiatives."

By comparing project reports, city employees were able to determine that adopting intelligent power strips was a more effective way to reduce PC power consumption than was an approach requiring active participation from employees.

The wealth of data available to city employees also helped track the long-term effectiveness of, for example, print-reduction projects. Those initiatives included setting printers to print double-sided by default and encouraging staff and city council members to access reports in digital form instead of hard copies. These efforts resulted in a 25 percent reduction in paper use in 2009 over that of 2005.

All told, the city of Palo Alto reaped tremendous gains for its various sustainability projects, and a significant portion of that success can be credited to having a tool to track all those projects from a single pane. By the end of 2009, Palo Alto found that it had shattered its goal of reducing GHG emissions by 5 percent from the 2005 baseline, instead achieving an overall reduction of 12 percent. Specifically, the city slashed electricity consumption by 8 percent, natural gas consumption by 25 percent, solid waste consumption by 22 percent, paper consumption by 25 percent, and employee commute time by 31 percent. In terms of tax dollars, the city saved $550,000 on electricity, natural gas, and materials.

Of course, technology alone did not help reduce Palo Alto's carbon footprint. "The greatest challenge is organizational, not technical. [It] centered on working with departments to take responsibility for their energy management and convincing senior management that this diffused responsibility was the most effective approach to attaining efficiency," said Van Orsdol. "When you are using a GHG management tool to transform the organization in its thinking about and managing energy, complete support from the executive offices is critical."

Provider Enterprises steers fleet toward fuel savingsSystem boosts safety, response time for bus service to special-needs students

Provider Enterprises offers a critical service for New Hampshire schools: lining up transportation for over 1,500 special-needs children to 200 different schools every day. Managing the fleet of vehicles can be complex as the company strives to ensure the safety and comfort of its passengers while adhering to strict time tables -- and, of course, a budget.

Related:
1 2 3 4 5 Page 3
Page 3 of 5
Discover what your peers are reading. Sign up for our FREE email newsletters today!