Seven steps to reducing desktop power consumption

According to international non-profit organization The Climate Group, PCs and related equipment consumed more than 40 per cent of the IT industry’s global energy footprint in 2007. Yet one of the most-overlooked ways to minimize the environmental impact of IT is surprisingly simple: desktop power management.

Effective desktop power management can yield significantly lower energy consumption, cost savings and improvement of a company’s carbon footprint, satisfying a range of stakeholders increasingly committed to green initiatives and cost containment, including the CFO and other senior executives and investors.

Options for conserving desktop power now extend well beyond simply turning off desktop machines. A combination of features in advanced operating systems such Microsoft Windows 7 and associated best practices give IT departments a range of options to cut power consumption and costs.

Did you know? An enterprise with 4,000 PCs can reduce energy consumption by approximately 2,400,000 kilowatts and save nearly $300,000 over a three-year period.

Here are seven practical steps towards saving resources, energy and budget through desktop power conservation practices:

Step 1: Have a mandate, resources and clear goals – The first step to rolling out a desktop power conservation project, and realizing the cost and efficiency gains, is to make it a priority. Here are a few simple guidelines:

* Don’t reinvent the wheel – align with existing conservation initiatives;
* Show how the desktop initiative will support company goals, such as green IT, cost containment or better utilization of human and technology resources; and
* Establish SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, responsible, timely) goals so that progress of the rollout can be measured and summarized.

Tip: Be sure to establish a mission statement to clearly articulate the goals of the initiative, such as: Our goal is to establish our PC power consumption baseline and implement a plan that lowers energy consumption by 20 per cent in 12 months.

Step 2: Establish a “Green Desktop Champions” team – One of the key success factors for this project is to get an executive sponsor on board who will champion the cause and promote its objectives at the highest levels of the organization. Other important champions should include:

* Procurement – this department is important since sourcing policies and investment decisions for materials and hardware will need to be adjusted over the long term;
* Facilities – this group pays the power bills each month, so it can play a key role in recording power gains and patterns and paving the way for financing; and
* Corporate communications – leverage this team to educate and inform the general user community, and the company at large, about the initiative. Most people care about reducing their carbon footprint, so keep them informed and make them active participants!

Step 3: Establish a baseline – A future plan can’t be implemented without first understanding “as is” power usage, so the next step is to map the ebb and flow of existing power trends. Companies should ensure they understand patterns such as:

* Computing demand – when energy demands are highest and lowest;
* End user usage profiles – which user types or departments have similar PC configurations and computing demand profiles;
* Types of users in domain – identify usage patterns associated with various job functions; and
* Asset inventory – develop an outline of all PC makes, models and associated peripherals.

The resulting baseline will provide four key pieces of information: the machines and devices that are in use; how they are configured; the amount of power they are using; and general power usage patterns.

Tip: Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) R3™, estimated to hit the market in the first quarter of 2010, will address the need for centralized power management. The new features will help organizations: plan a power strategy by monitoring and reporting on the current power state and consumption trends; enable specific power settings using the existing ConfigMgr infrastructure; and provide meaningful power management report formats.

Step 4: Develop an action plan – Once the baseline has been established, an action plan can be developed to enforce more efficient energy use across the desktop fleet, using the baseline to measure improvement and assess progress. Key elements of the action plan should include:

* Identify the ideal configuration state and compare with the “as is” state;
* Develop a plan to achieve the optimal configuration for all models and machines;
* Implement the changes – this can be broken down into two steps: 1) setting policies and 2) deployment. Innovations can be rolled out first to a pilot group and then to the broader organization; and
* Remediation – troubleshoot solutions and fixes for machines that don’t adhere to policies, detect rogue machines and bring exceptions back into line with accepted use policies.

Tip: Beware of false economies – information-driven organizations cannot afford to compromise on functionality. For example, it may seem like a good idea to save money by using weaker desktop disk drives, but powerful drives will be more efficient and a better long-term investment.

Step 5: Execute the plan – It’s important to remember that this is a cyclical process. As the organization and its power use patterns mature, organizations should refer back to the baseline and refine the plan repeatedly – this is a natural part of the process as desktop power consumption patterns change.

Tip: Leverage existing systems management or upgrade to a more current operating system, such as Windows 7, which can be implemented in a modular way. This incorporates and pre-configures all best practices “out of the box” from day one – a strategic investment that will yield returns over the long term.

Step 6: Optimize and monitor – This final step involves troubleshooting and detecting machines that don’t adhere to energy optimization policies and aligning them with accepted energy use standards and practices. Once there is an understanding of the enterprise desktop fleet, organizations may move to fine tuning other employee machines, such as remote workers’ PCs. Windows 7 can make this task easier since it can be managed from any location.

As this process evolves, new patterns of use, areas of potential optimization and cost containments will emerge – in which case, this template can be used to restart the optimization process again.

Step 7: Communicate and celebrate success! – With the ability to measure the success of the program against the baseline, IT organizations shouldn’t forget to communicate the strides made in energy conservation and what it means for the company’s bottom line and its carbon footprint.

How Windows 7 opens a new landscape of desktop power conservation benefits

Enhanced power management features:
* Device power management: New power enhancement features have been added, such as adaptive display – which dims the display after a set period – and low-power audio.
* Enhanced user experience: Power-related features are more intuitive, including easier troubleshooting and low battery alerts, among other improvements.
*Enterprise power management: More granular controls have been integrated, including group and power policies.

Improved idle efficiency: Reduces resource utilization when systems are idle and can eliminate background activity.

Timer coalescing: Increases the duration of processor idle periods by combining multiple software timer expirations and executing the tasks together. When tasks are complete, the processor returns to an idle state.

Faster boot-up and shutdown times: Slow shutdown time is one of the main reasons users leave desktops running – this feature should prompt more people to shut down their machines at the end of the day.

Wendy Lucas is the area vice-president, Canada, for Dimension Data, a global IT solutions and services provider. A 20-plus year veteran of the Canadian IT industry, Lucas is also a former CDN Top 25 Newsmaker.

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