How Deloitte's IT team has gone green

Yes, the energy savings are nice, but for Deloitte CIO Larry Quinlan, green IT is just part of running an efficient IT shop

Saving on energy costs is obviously a good thing, but to Larry Quinlan, CIO at the consulting firm Deloitte LLP, green IT simply makes good business sense. "If you run green IT right, you will end up with a vastly superior IT organization," Quinlan said during his keynote address at the recent Network World IT Roadmap event in Atlanta, in which he described green IT as one of five technologies that will change IT. From reducing demand for IT resources to thin laptops, Quinlan has no shortage of ideas on how to make green IT deliver on multiple fronts.

How does green IT help you create a superior IT organization?

In order to run IT well, you want streamlined, efficient, cost-efficient operations and green IT gets you exactly that. Think about elements of green IT such as server consolidation. OK, great, you save electricity. But you also save on people, you save on moving parts, on leasing administration, you save on the software that goes on those servers, you increase your uptime percentages. Your security posture improves because of the smaller number of devices you have to keep in compliance. That's just one example of how green IT will actually make operations better.

Another aspect of green IT that we're looking at is use of printing. We're moving from a free-for-all with everybody having personal printers, lots of different kinds, wasting paper, to using larger, more effective devices that cost less per page. We'll take the number of printers down significantly, in some cases by more than 100%, by centralizing printers. One aspect of it is reduced use of electricity, but it also means fewer devices we to have to manage, fewer annoying phone calls about printers out of toner, fewer people managing them, better output, better quality and less downtime.

Profile of Larry Quinlan

You talked about the need to reduce operating costs and demand for computing resources. How do you reduce demand?

The first way we deal with demand is by actually understanding it. People ask for all kinds of applications, which then drive the need for all kinds of servers and system development efforts. By really understanding what people are asking for, by assigning folks to understand the business and the business processes, we get a good feel for what we ought to do. So in some cases you realize a request for 10 different systems could really be met by two systems. In some cases, if you can demonstrate how to fix a process, maybe you don't need the system at all. If you put in place platforms that allow things like collaboration, then you move away from one-off systems to deal with each request and instead build on top of these platforms. Don't have eight different CRM systems; change the business process such that you have one CRM system. Those are all techniques we're using to get across the goal line.

Other aspects of demand affect green IT, such as the demand for paper. On some printers we're making duplex the default for printing. Because people won't bother to change the default, you immediately decrease the demand for paper and for power. Those are some of the areas we look at.

You're building a new data center in Dallas. What are some of the green initiatives you're implementing there?

One is reducing power consumption. There are several standards you use to get a building LEED-certified [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a Green Building Rating System developed by the U.S. Green Building Council] and we're implementing those standards. They cover how we deal with power, for example, and the concept of using water-cooling technology to ensure less heat emission is something that's important to us. We want to reduce the number of file severs from the very beginning by at least 20% compared to existing implementations. We'll use blade server technology as opposed to normal servers, so it will be all blades. We're reducing backup tapes and then also dealing with data-center waste and disposal, partnering with companies that will take our e-waste and dispose of it appropriately or recycle it. That includes any computers that weren't leased or aren't going back to vendors, peripherals and so forth.

Data center was one of four components of your green IT initiative, along with office computing, education and awareness as well as user computing. Let's start with the user computing initiative — what does that entail?

We've got a PDA recycling program where we ask people to bring in their old PDAs, so they don't end up in landfills. Pretty soon we're going to require that they bring in their old PDA to get a new one. Virtualization of laptops is another area. One of the questions we're asking ourselves is: Do we have an opportunity to virtualize laptops and, by using resources in the data center, have 45,000-plus laptops draw less power? Can we move to much thinner devices? Because we'll have ubiquity of communications, we'll always be connected. So can we have devices that are more energy efficient, while at the same time not have to worry about how to manage software and patching and all of those things? If we can pull that off, that'd be another perfect example of green IT concepts resulting in a more cost-effective IT organization. But I think it will be at least a couple of years before we can convert laptops into just thin devices accessing the network.

I understand you're also looking at energy efficient screensavers?

Those are relatively small things, but for 45,000 laptops, rolling out screensavers that turn the monitors off will save some power. Another idea is using laptop power management software that spins down the screen and the hard drive. There's a big difference between 45,000 laptops spinning down the drives after five minutes of non-use as opposed to 20 minutes.

What are some of the components of the practice office initiative?

The move away from personal printers to more energy efficient devices with duplex printing is one aspect. Wireless network deployment is another. By putting wireless everywhere, we could reduce the number of Ethernet switches in the closets and reduce power. We're also going to reduce the amount of cable that we run into our new locations and renovations by 50%, and that's also where green comes in — less copper, less waste, less cabling that ends up in landfills and in buildings.

Videoconferencing is another one we're spending quite a bit of money on. We're putting in high-definition immersive videoconferencing. Some of these rooms are large, they can hold 20 people. They really allow us to bring travel down. In addition, we're moving to videoconferencing all the way to the desktop. We're putting in travel scorecards to track how many trips are being taken and the travel metrics. We really want to see some reduction as a result of our videoconferencing deployments.

What about your education and awareness initiatives?

We've got Web sites going to get the awareness messages out there. We have a variety of leadership meetings across the country and green IT is now one of the things we're highlighting. We'll have a booth there that tells people about the various initiatives.

What elements of your program would you say are delivering the most bang for the buck thus far?

Server consolidation for sure. That's the one where we're most mature. We understand how to do virtualization of the servers and we've removed hundreds of servers from the environment already. In the data center, there's been a reduction of backup tapes and such, so we're getting there with that. In the practice offices, we're well underway with the printers, duplex printing and the videoconferencing deployments. We're really just getting started with the whole PDA recycling program and getting people accustomed to it. We're about to ramp it up now by actually requiring it.

What has been the reaction so far to some of those user-facing initiatives like the PDA recycling? How are people taking to it?

People actually love this stuff. We've designed a program that is palatable to everyone. The only two that require them to do anything are the PDA recycling – and who's going to complain about that? We gave you a free PDA and now we're saying bring it back so you can get a new one and oh by the way we're going to save the earth when you do. The big one is getting people accustomed to duplex printing. People don't really like seeing print on both sides of the paper. But we have a built-in advantage. We are a growing enterprise, so we have a lot of younger people in the organization and they're much more attuned to a save the earth kind of campaign. We believe that acceptance of duplex printing is growing. And But the fact that we're making it the default on many of our devices just makes it easy. Once you get over the, "I got to remember to look at the other side of the page," it becomes OK.

You've also got a strategy to eliminate applications and centralize what's left. How does that relate to your green IT efforts?

Application centralization has several benefits to it. First, of the techniques one would use to do application centralization, the first is platform standardization. Instead of building multiple applications to do the same kind of collaboration, you build all of the applications on a common platform. The second is application standardization [as in the CRM example mentioned earlier]. That's just good business in my mind and allows us to be more nimble and agile. And if you standardize those platforms and associated applications, it goes a long way toward doing server virtualization and consolidation; that's where the green benefit comes in.

But it's not a silver bullet. Everyone is looking for some silver bullet. If I do this, I'll save the planet. It isn't like that. We're just approaching this in a pragmatic way. Are there ways we can reduce our emissions? The answer is yes, if we do these eight or nine projects in these three or four buckets, we'll do better. Let's just do it and make it good business and move on.

Our goal is simply year by year to improve all of our operations. We're going through some methodologies now to determine carbon footprints and such, but we are not going to let that drive us. We are not going to be in the press like others saying we moved from X carbon footprint to Y. And when you dig into the details, you find they contributed $10 million to planting trees somewhere to do carbon offsets. We're not into that game. We truly want to go through and do all of these things [to conserve energy]. And as the industry and other research reveals other areas where we can conserve, we want to do those things as well. We're much more into that than we're into tree planting.

Desmond is events editor for Network World and president of PDEdit, an IT publishing company in Southborough, Mass. Reach him at paul@pdedit.com.

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