An IT Professional’s Guide to Going Green

August 14, 2011

Going green is a hot topic right now. Not only is it the socially responsible (and hip) thing to do, it can actually save companies on the other important green. We asked writer Heather Barnett to sit down with green technology expert Matt Stansberry to find out what you can do to help your company save money while helping the environment.

Heather: Thanks for sitting down with me today. Let’s dive right in! What are the three most important things an IT professional can do to decrease his/her company’s impact on the environment?

Matt: There are a lot of things an IT professional can do. Push the organization to go paperless as much as possible. Support a telecommuting program to allow more employees to work from home a few days a week – cutting gas usage. Invest in teleconferencing and mobile meeting systems to help cut down on corporate travel. Those are some big ways to reduce CO2 emissions.

But for large companies, in a lot of cases, their data centers – the large computer rooms that support all of a company’s business applications – are one of the biggest CO2 emitters… more than office buildings.

For IT professionals who want to get involved in reducing data center energy consumption, the first step would be to get a hold of the data center power bill. The biggest driver for reducing data center energy use is financial. Talk with your counterparts in the facilities management team to find out what they’re doing to maximize data center efficiency across the backup power and cooling systems. Discuss options to consolidate, upgrade or remove servers and model that impact on the data center infrastructure – take that potential savings to management and get a mandate from your executive team to pursue an efficiency initiative. So many companies have comatose servers in their data centers – running apps nobody is using anymore or waiting to be moved to a test-dev lab, sucking up power and data center cooling.  But the bottom line is that nobody is going to get promoted for going around and unplugging servers unless they have buy-in from upper management.

Heather: I’ve seen a couple of green IT certifications out there. Which ones are the best?

Matt: I haven’t seen many IT certifications related to green IT, but the two I am familiar with are the U.S. Department of Energy’s Data Center Energy Practitioner Program and the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Accredited Professional program. The first is more data center-focused, while the LEED AP certification is generally a building-management program targeted at companies pursuing LEED Certification, but a lot of folks in the data center design field have become LEED AP.

But there are professional development options that are more effective than certifications, like joining user group organizations. You can also get involved with organizations like Uptime Institute, ASHRAE, The Green Grid, or Data Center Pulse, which will do a lot more for your career than having a string of letters after your name. You can learn from your peers how to pursue data center efficiency initiatives, network for career development, and write articles or speak at conferences to improve your résumé.

Heather: Is there a self-assessment tool available on the web that IT professionals can use to determine where they stand?

Matt: The Green Grid’s Power Usage Effectiveness metric is widely accepted as a gauge for measuring your data center infrastructure’s efficiency – but it only looks at the power and cooling systems. To get a holistic view of your company’s data center “greeness,” you should check out The Green Grid’s newest offering, the Data Center Maturity Model.

Heather: Thanks, Matt. These are some great tips to get IT professionals going in the right direction.

Matt Stansberry is Director of Content and Publications for Uptime Institute, the Global Data Center Authority, developing unbiased, actionable resources for data center owners and operators to improve data center management, to address changing regulations, and to advise on new equipment and standards.

He joined Tech Target in 2005 to launch, and has managed that site and multiple other Tech Target properties. He won an award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for his eBook, The Green Data Center. Prior to joining Tech Target, he was the managing editor of Today’s Facility Manager magazine and a staff writer for the U.S. Green Building Council.

Stansberry has reported on the convergence of technology, facility management and energy issues in the data center since 2003.