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.

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In an effort to improve service and cut expenses, Provider enlisted fleet management technology from Navman. The system gave the company a new level of visibility into the real-time whereabouts of its 178 vehicles, tools for tracking factors such as fuel consumption and vehicle maintenance records, and the means for quickly exchanging communications -- including instructions and directions via SMS -- with drivers.

The system has yielded a number of benefits. From a purely economical standpoint, it helped the company cut fuel expenses by nearly 10 percent in the first year alone, which amounts to around $50,000. In part, those savings come from the system's ability to help dispatchers identify when drivers are violating the company's no-idling policy -- and alert drivers to the problem immediately.

Moreover, dispatchers can easily notify a driver when a child doesn't need to be picked up, thus shortening trips. Dispatchers can also easily find the closest appropriately equipped vehicle to meet a passenger's needs. "Response times have been cut by 50 percent,” said Garrett Scholes, operations manager at Provider. “Before Navman Wireless, we did all of our dispatching over the radio. Some buses have wheelchair lifts and some don’t. Routing the correctly equipped buses to the appropriate stops was time consuming and tedious.”

Further, the system enables Provider to track safety violations, such as whether a driver is speeding (which can also waste fuel and contribute to wear and tear) or failing to stop at railroad crossings or whether passengers aren't buckled in. The system also lets the company know if drivers are using vehicles for personal use, which, again, can result in higher fuel and maintenance costs.

Raytheon's companywide green efforts reach Antarctica Company's sustainable IT programs evolve far beyond the data center and desktop

Defense company Raytheon may well have extended the reach of sustainability efforts further than any other organization on the planet. Among its successful green IT endeavors, the company devised a way to significantly slash fuel waste in the deepest of souths: Antarctica.

This particular project, a joint effort by the company's IT and facilities departments, targeted operations at the United States' McMurdo station in Antarctica. Raytheon created a secure system by which staff could remotely monitor and tune heating systems at the station from offices in Denver. The effort freed up expensive and limited staff time in Antarctica, while reducing fuel consumption by 50,000 gallons alone in 2009, in part by reclaiming some of the waste heat to use as supplement heating in other buildings. The environmental benefits are by no means trivial -- nor are the economic benefits when you consider fuel for the chilly location runs $8 per gallon.

The McMurdo project represents the fruits of Raytheon's ongoing, companywide sustainability efforts, which have blossomed through company leaders' efforts to cultivate a "think green" mentality within the corporate culture -- no small effort considering Raytheon is a worldwide company with 75,000-plus employees. Raytheon has achieved this feat through a number of channels, such as implementing a social networking environment for fostering collaboration on green-focused projects among various teams.

The combined effort of promoting sustainability has helped the company rapidly replicate successful green IT endeavors. "A joint IT and facilities team within our Net Centric Systems (NCS) business ... developed and deployed a desktop power management solution using products from 1E," said Brian J. Moore, Raytheon's Sustainable IT Program lead. "Our social networking structures enabled IT and facilities teams in two of our other businesses to learn about their success and get help in implementing the solution for themselves. Other businesses are now beginning the process as well."

Similarly, the facilities team at one of the business units "have been sharing a process and techniques for identifying and making improvements to data center efficiencies that are low-cost but that can generate significant savings," says Moore. "Examples include using wireless temperature sensors to adjust floor tile openings and blocking air flows between hot and cold aisles."

Raytheon's efforts have helped the organization's sustainable IT efforts evolve beyond simply making IT operations -- such as in the data center, on the desktop, and in print -- greener. That's not to say the IT-focused efforts alone weren't fruitful; the company managed to slash IT energy costs by $17.4 million per year. But beyond simply boosting IT operations' green credentials, the company has empowered IT to find ways to apply technology to manage other business processes and operations, such as the McMurdo Station project or the development of a database to track water usage.

Moore attributes much of Raytheon's sustainability success to the company's investment in social capital. "Our focus on social capital is also enabling IT to be deeply engaged in the company-wide Raytheon Sustainability program. Sustainability is a journey, and the investment we are making in developing social capital well-prepares us to flourish along the way," he said. "Every day we see positive contributions to the company's bottom line, to the environment, and to the work lives of our employees that surprise us. We are proving that connecting the knowledge and passion of folks in various roles across the company can make a real difference."

Standard Bank enlists thin clients to avoid costly AC upgrade The company's VDI infrastructure leads to less heat, lower bills, and easier end-user support

Standard Bank was set to relocate to a new BREEAM Excellent-rated headquarters in London in 2009 but faced a curious dilemma: The new building's air conditioning system wasn't designed to accommodate the number of employees moving into the space. Scrapping and replacing the AC system was certainly an option, but company execs felt that would violate the spirit of selecting a green building in the first place. Enter Standard Bank IT architects Joel King and Paul Cotgrove, who came up with a clever, IT-oriented approach to beating the office heat: replacing PCs with low-power virtual clients.

The bank's VDI infrastructure combines VMware View and around 700 Wyse V10L virtual clients. Two monitors are connected to each client to provide users with the necessary work environment. On the server side, in addition to the VMware View VDI platform, Standard Bank uses VMware ThinApp software to virtualize applications, including specialized, business-critical, graphically intensive apps such as SunGard Front Arena and Bloomberg. The server virtualization infrastructure is VMware VI3 with HDS USPV storage.

The VDI solution certainly nipped the heating problem in the bud, saving the bank more than $380,000 (250,000 British pounds) on a new AC system. As an added benefit, the company saw energy consumption drop by 312,539 kWH per year, which translated to $50,000 in savings. Those savings stem from the fact that the bank's PCs had consumed 150 watts each while the thin clients ran at about 15 watts per unit. "The data center does experience some increase in demand, but overall, our savings are far more than we thought. It's also easier to manage and control energy consumption at the data center. Overall, I think we have experienced a 30 to 40 percent savings," said King.

Environmental benefits aside, the bank reports that the new computing infrastructure is easier to manage and maintain. "Initially, the cost of provisioning a user with a thin client is [only] a little bit better than purchasing a PC. But in the long run, the thin client support is faster, cheaper, and easier to resolve. If there is a problem with a machine, typically a user simply has to log off and then they are fine," King said.

Additionally, equipping a user with a new system is a snap. "With PCs, it would take anywhere from a half a day to a full day to download the image onto the PC, install all user-specific applications, take that to the user, and configure it specifically for them. With VDI, all of that goes away. We can pretty much just add a user to the Active Directory, and it's as simple as that," said King.

Also important: End-users, who were initially resistant to giving up their PCs for thin clients, have warmed up to them considerably, in part because they make working remotely a lot easier. "Users log in and it's the same experience and full functionality as if they were in the bank. In the past, users had legacy hardware, so the quality of remote access wasn't as good," said King. "Overall, there was some resistance to begin with, but once people understood the thin clients, they were happy. We even had people asking us to move them to thin clients before their scheduled move."

Riding the sustainability wave that came with the move into the new green building, Standard Bank has embraced other IT projects to cut waste and shrink its carbon footprint. For example, the company reduced its printer count from 130 machines to just 30, and users now have to swipe a card at a printer in order for the job to process. "We've reduced paper waste, because a lot of times people would print, then forget about it," King said. "Now we're looking at power monitoring on all servers and how we can reduce our server consumption with more efficient hardware or server consolidation. Overall, there is a big drive around here, looking at everything to see how we can reduce our carbon footprint."

State Street banks on sustainability Engaging employees companywide enhances the payback of green IT investments

As a worldwide financial giant, State Street knows a little something about making sound investments. It turns out its expansive list of sustainability investments have indeed been money well spent, helping the company -- with 27,000 employees in 25 countries -- cut expenses and drive efficiency throughout its businesses operations.

"Green' is not merely an isolated program. To garner the greatest benefit, green thinking, measurement, and management should become a part of every solution," said Madge Meyer, executive vice president at State Street's global infrastructure services division. "We have assimilated our green initiatives into our infrastructure technology Blueprint, thereby ensuring that sustainability efforts complement and align with all of our business and technology initiatives. We also consider the environment in our standard technology planning process to help minimize our environmental impact from a worldwide perspective and support our corporate commitment to the communities in which we live and work."

State Street's green IT projects run a broad gamut. Through its Standardized Accelerated Virtualized Eco-Friendly (SAVE) storage initiative, the company has consolidated 47 Windows environments to four NAS subsystems within two datacenters for significant green savings. Virtualizing 50 percent of its servers resulted in energy savings totaling nearly $3 million per year, not to mention a 62 million pound reduction of CO2 emissions. The company has also consolidated its VoIP architecture, eliminating 84 percent of its distributed PBXes for further reduced energy consumption.

On the desktop, the company adopted PC power management, yielding energy savings of around $500,000 per year.

State Street's list of green-oriented initiatives continues with its Work from Home initiative, a program that "leverages our sophisticated technology platform to support remote access and telecommuting, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution," said Meyer. The program saves an estimated 880 metric tons of carbon per year.

The company has succeeded in saving money and reducing air travel through the use of telepresence and videoconferencing technologies as well. Teleconferencing has increased by 40 percent since its adoption, and State Street employees now average more than 1,400 virtual meetings daily.

Employee participation is critical for State Street's green initiatives to be effective. Fortunately, the company has found that workers want to be involved in the greater good. "The challenge is really about harnessing the passion that already exists in our workforce," said Meyer. "To accomplish this, we rely heavily on our Energy Efficiency Team, which is staffed by those employees within all levels of our organization who are already personally committed to sustainability. This dedicated team expands our green culture by leveraging and promoting regional efforts on a global scale to secure the broadest collaboration in managing our environmental footprint."

Syracuse University turns to DC power in constructing its Green Data CenterOther green practices include on-site power generation and innovative liquid cooling

If the subject is politics, the word "efficiency" is rarely paired with the acronym "DC." In the world of sustainable IT, however, the other DC, direct current, is gaining recognition as a more efficient, less hardware-intensive power-delivery technology than the standard AC (active current): hence, Syracuse University's decision to build its Green Data Center atop a DC power infrastructure.

Funded with public and private contributions (including IBM's largesse), the university's $12.4 million, 12,000-square-foot Green Data Center (GDC) is designed to use about 50 percent less energy than a typical data center. A chunk of those saved watts come via a DC power system, which requires fewer power conversions than does a traditional AC-based facility.

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