Jun 12 2008

Make ROI Your Green Guide

When considering IT projects, it's important to be both eco-friendly and fiscally sound.

Photo: Hot Shots Imaging
Jim Shanks, Executive Vice President and former CIO of CDW

It's no revelation to anyone who deals regularly with information technology that green IT is a prevalent topic — one that encompasses many forward-looking and sustainable concepts. But what compels a business to take steps to ensure that its IT infrastructure is more eco-friendly? Sure, it sounds nice, and at the moment it’s popular. But that’s not enough to make going green worthwhile on its own merit.

What’s important is making sure that any new IT initiative reflects a sound business approach. For instance, when considering green IT, ask yourself whether the move is fiscally sound. Does it make IT more energy-efficient and will it result in significant cost savings? Will virtualization help you get a grip on server sprawl and reduce the number of physical servers needed, as long as computing resources remain the same? Will it deliver an extra bonus of cutting down on energy consumption? I doubt there are any IT managers who would object to freeing up server space and getting more horsepower out of existing servers.

Do What Makes Sense

The efficiency that can be achieved through a more strategic implementation of technology and better management practices should prompt every business to re-evaluate its technology options. And even though there are many benefits to implementing a new technology, the best technology purchase is the one that matches the business driver behind that request.

(Read: The Art of Information Technology ROI from the July 2009 issue of BizTech Magazine)

While server virtu­alization, for example, provides a number of eco-friendly benefits, such as reducing power consump­tion by reducing the physical hardware needed, most IT professionals don’t switch to virtual platforms to cut electricity costs. Instead, they want faster recovery from system failures and better allocation of processor resources.

Such is the case for Jeremy Dotson, LAN administrator at Tronair. After suffering through headaches and downtime because of hard-drive failures in its RAID array, the aircraft equipment maker made a virtualized environment the keystone of its disaster-recovery plan. “If one entire physical server goes down, the other [virtual servers] take up that slack as I have predetermined,” Dotson says. “Virtual servers reboot in a fraction of the time.” The fact that his virtualized infrastructure also utilizes “a fraction of the rack space, uses a fraction of energy, puts off a fraction of the heat and takes full advantage of the full power of the server’s hardware” helped to justify the cost, but all those benefits alone weren’t enough to pull the trigger.

To learn more about Tronair's server virtualization project, click here.

Follow the ROI

In a recent BizTech quick poll, about 44 percent of IT professionals reported that their purchase considerations did not take into account whether or not a product was environmentally friendly. Yet nearly half say they would purchase a comparable but more costly environmentally friendly product if a solid return-on-investment could be delivered.

A growing number of businesses are actively pursuing green credentials and attempting to increase efficiency and reduce the environmental impacts of their IT departments. Yet others grow increasingly weary of what they perceive as “greenwashing” at every turn. Whether green initiatives are of personal or business interest — or perhaps of no interest — IT still needs to do the upfront prep work before selecting its next purchase.

Jim Shanks is executive vice president of CDW, an $8.1 billion provider of technology solutions for business, government and education based in Vernon Hills, Ill.