Lean green machine

The data centre is traditionally the villain in any discussion on IT energy efficiency. Much effort is focused on airflow management, server efficiency and maybe, as a last resort, carbon offsetting.

But according to a Gartner study, data centres only account for 23% of IT carbon emissions: the big energy guzzlers are monitors and desktop PCs, at 40%.

“The data centre is a very complex problem, but PCs have almost twice as big an impact,” says Kevin Klustner, CEO of Seattle-based power management software firm Verdiem, listed by analysts at Forrester as “a company to watch”.

Verdiem’s product ‘Surveyor’ automatically switches PCs to low power settings when not in use and shuts them down as required, centralising power management from a console at the server level. It’s certainly a more sophisticated solution than that implemented by one organisation, which reportedly had the cleaners tie red helium balloons to any PC left on overnight for the users to discover the following morning.

Desktop power management is nothing new, but Klustner claims the benefit of Surveyor is that it automates the process and provides auditing functions. The client program reports power usage back to the console once a day, which effectively gives IT ownership of a savings figure.

“It can save £20 to £60 in running costs per PC per year, which can mean hundreds of thousands of pounds for a large enterprise and an overnight reduction of 5% to 15% in organisation-wide energy consumption,” Klustner says, adding that Surveyor’s formative customers were school districts trying to operate IT on a shoestring, and not corporate monoliths with an inspired green agenda.

“It’s not about green as much as it is about reducing operating costs,” he says. “The green component is relevant and topical, but in the end it saves money.”

He admits that energy efficiency measures don’t have the same “futuristic” appeal of things like renewable energy, and can have a hard time making themselves heard over the clamour of wind turbines: “People are more interested in cool and complex things. Billions of dollars of venture capital in the US goes into alternative energy, and much less into improving energy efficiency.”

Renewable power might be around the corner, but power management is something that can be done now. “We can solve a huge portion of the climate crisis by turning things off,” Klustner says.

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Data Centres