One thing I’ve learned from 20 years in the IT industry is that being able to execute a project flawlessly is crucial; but being able to demonstrate and quantify the effectiveness of a solution is where the real success lies. And it’s not always easy.
About a year ago, the growing demand for greener business solutions picked up real steam. It’s now a central pillar in most IT vendor marketing platforms. Today—whether they like it or not—business people are forced to care about these things. What I find ironic is that most Green IT initiatives just happen to be cost-savers too. IT Weapons has been implementing virtualization platforms for our clients for years, and being greener had always been an under-appreciated benefit; lower power consumption has always meant a lower carbon footprint. Now people are really starting to take notice.
With newly formed Green Committees and sustainability initiatives emerging in most organizations, the pressure is on IT departments to show results; not just talk about them. It’s one thing to tell a customer that virtualizing their servers means they are saving energy; it’s quite another to quantify the impact for them.
We spent significant time investigating the power and cooling savings we were realizing (per-client) in the IT Weapons Data Centre. We looked at actual component usage, server consolidation rates, and facility demands. We found a way to A) translate that data into reduced carbon emissions and B) put those numbers into a context that makes sense. After plenty of research and some brain-bending arithmetic, we had to validate our findings. We spoke to Ontario Power Generation, Toronto Hydro, and we even consulted with a Canadian owned carbon-offset tree planting organization.
Our research showed that many carbon footprint calculators inflate their numbers by assuming that the power used is generated by dirty coal-burning methods. It makes a big difference to the bottom line if the grid power you consume comes from clean power like hydro-electric or nuclear sources. So we found out just how clean Ontario’s grid power is, and we calculated our Data Centre consumption and carbon emissions based on that. Our assumptions were fact-based, and our estimates were conservative. It’s about integrity.
Anyway, we generated presentation-calibre reports and even a certificate (printed on FSC recycled paper, of course). We’ve been presenting these to our clients. The response has been great. Plenty of clients had been looking for a Green win (finding the task daunting) and we dropped it right in front of them; as a value-add, no cost. They were surprised and delighted. The certs are going up in their lobbies, and the reports are getting quoted in newsletters and even AGMs.
One client said it was so refreshing to see the environmental impact of their IT initiatives in such a simple format. He said: “Our server consolidation and power reduction efforts at the Data Centre have kept the carbon emissions equivalent of 5.5 cars per year out of the air. And 7 more by using thin clients and LCDs… Financial savings aside, we are making a difference for the planet – thank-you!”.
I know we could have charged for this analysis and reporting service, and we went out of pocket to get the research done… but our customers are our life-blood. When they win, we win.