IT is a peculiar appliance and has resisted change in the form of overall transparency and/or standardization, perhaps in part due to its unique nature.
Generally speaking, IT does not have a great track record in welcoming parties to the decision-making process and even resists efforts to increase transparency. Because IT displaces or eliminates other forms of resource consumption, trying to apply efficient IT principles can invite the threshold question of ‘Why?’ Some people think, “If I can avoid an airplane trip, ride in my car, overnight delivery or firing up a printing press, isn’t that enough?”
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Yet an increasing number of enterprises recognize, in fact, their most resource-intensive facility houses IT, whether owned or leased.
The laws of competition in a capitalist economy mean that any license to waste is temporary and will be reviewed and revoked sooner than anyone anticipates. The compute vendors, whether co-location or cloud, are competing with on-premise IT by being more transparent and agile. And corporate stakeholders outside of IT are driving a path of increased business-savviness in IT management.
IT efficiency requires a different approach
Unfortunately, corporate sustainability approaches IT efficiency with the same strategies it might implement to improve efficiency in other business functions, and it's getting piecemeal results from the efforts.
The difficulty is that efficient IT isn’t regularly seen by most sustainability professionals as they go about their regular jobs. Admittedly, for very large-scale operations, a sustainability professional may be embedded in the IT engineering group. But not all companies deploy IT at that scale to justify this focused position.
For organizations that have corporate sustainability professionals managing KPIs across disparate departments and reporting structures, the one-size-fits-all approach to efficiency will not work for IT.
For example, a factory might be evaluated for its use of utilities or raw materials and can be made more efficient through initiatives taken at that singular street address or location.
However, for IT efficiency initiatives, the data center itself is only the site of resource consumption and can only, to a limited extent, be made more efficient in and of itself.
The actual decision making that impacts resource consumption generally does not occur at that street address—sometimes not even in that same city, state or country. Additionally the invoices and/or allocations for those resources consumed are not all sent or charged to the right location or department.
Thus, efficient IT relies on organizational navigation rather than spot improvements in a specific site.
An example: Running hardware that's no longer needed
The problem of comatose servers is a prime example of rampant inefficiency in IT that can be addressed only through the org chart and not the street address. Industry reports suggest server CPU utilization in many enterprises is in single-digit percentages. Furthermore, Uptime Institute research has demonstrated over 20 percent of IT equipment serves no business function whatsoever. Hardware long abandoned by application owners and users but still racked and running hide in plain sight within even the most sophisticated IT organizations.
By decommissioning an abandoned server or eliminating the need to deploy a server through asset optimization, kilowatts of power and cooling are saved. This leads to savings in expense and carbon that are appreciated at the data center. If the organization is trying to avoid another data center build or purchase, then the kilowatts that are recovered are all the more precious. This is because the recovered savings are now being thought of as capital cost avoidance (tens of millions) rather than cost savings (tens of thousands).
Yet the decision to deploy or decommission a server is rarely made at the data center street address, but rather in the line of business or IT function outside of the purview of the data center. Understanding how to address the issue of comatose hardware requires navigating the org chart to find owners and executive sponsors to address underlying efficiency problems.
Server optimization and consolidation are only a portion of efficient IT opportunities but serve to illustrate how the big gains are reached by starting with the org chart, not the street address.
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