Maybe it is easy being green

IT professionals implementing energy efficient solutions in the data center are realizing big savings, and many report it has been easier to do than they thought it would be. In its fourth year, the CDW Energy Efficient IT Report found that implementing energy efficient solutions is easier than the typical organization perceives. Even better, "green" initiatives are gaining respect in the IT world, with 43% of survey respondents identifying green initiatives as a top driver for data center consolidation.

But what exactly is energy efficiency in the data center? Typically it involves everything from hardware selection to consolidation, cooling strategies, virtualization and more. CDW's report discussed the solutions users identified as offering the greatest return in energy efficiency, taking into consideration the cost, technical feasibility and management support for various solutions.

ROUNDUP: Top 12 green IT products

It also examined the barriers IT managers face when pursuing data center energy efficiency. While the combination of energy efficient strategies that makes the most sense for your organization will depend on your unique data center environment, there are still best practices to keep in mind.

Through the report findings and numerous implementations, here is what we have learned.

All available solutions deserve consideration

There are many new opportunities for cost and energy savings in the data center, but what makes the most sense for one business may not be appropriate for another. Most organizations have consolidated servers and implemented virtualization to reduce power demands. Others are taking advantage of low-power or low-wattage processors, ENERGY STAR qualifying devices, power-efficient networking equipment and energy-efficient/load shedding uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).

The most popular solutions may vary depending upon your industry. CDW found that while businesses and nonprofit organizations focus on ENERGY STAR qualified devices, Federal and state and local governments focus more on new cooling approaches. Finding the winning combination is up to your organization.

There are also new players in the energy efficiency game. Cloud computing, for example, could be a game changer. Many IT managers agree that cloud computing is an energy efficient approach to data center consolidation. While it includes a wide range of distinct technologies and services, the entire concept of the cloud is all about IT efficiency. As a strategy, it can deliver significant energy savings that will only enhance and complement other solutions within the data center.

Challenges and recommendations

Attitudes about green IT in the U.S. continue to grow favorably. On average, about a third of data center purchasing can be classified as green, meaning the technology is energy efficient, water efficient, bio-based, and environmentally preferable or non-ozone depleting. Yet many barriers remain that can discourage organizations -- or management -- from implementing energy efficient solutions.

The following challenges can result in significant barriers to efficient use of energy in IT operations:

➢ Too little budget for new, more efficient systems

➢ Senior management gives higher priority to investments in other areas of the organization

➢ No way to isolate and measure energy use

➢ Those who pay the organization's energy bills do not pay attention to IT's energy use

➢ IT professionals need increased guidance regarding how to measure current energy use and identify savings opportunities

To overcome these challenges, consider these five recommendations any business can follow to make the next energy efficient implementation as successful as possible:

➢ Understand your energy use: Take advantage of software tools that measure current energy consumption

➢ Consider multiple solutions: Explore various solutions to determine those which will offer your organization the most achievable savings

➢ Compare and estimate savings: Compare current savings with other organizations

➢ Raise the issue of green IT: Share investment plans and savings projections with your senior management

➢ Consider the cloud: Establish key building blocks for cloud solutions, such as server virtualization. As a strategy, cloud solutions can deliver energy savings that will enhance other data center solutions

Energy efficient IT is easier than you may think, and the data center solutions that provide big savings are really working to increase efficiency and lower cost. After years of hype, many organizations are finally giving the green light to energy efficient solutions in the data center.

About CDW

CDW is a leading provider of technology solutions for business, government, education and healthcare. Ranked No. 270 on the FORTUNE 500 and No. 32 on Forbes' list of America's Largest Private Companies, CDW was founded in 1984 and employs more than 6,800 coworkers. For the trailing twelve months ended March 31, 2012, the company generated net sales of $9.8 billion. For more information, visit

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.