July 8, 2008 By Paul W. Taylor
AAA estimates that driving a passenger vehicle costs an average of 54.1 cents per mile, up almost 2 cents since this time last year. The association predicts the increase will curb summer travel plans as record-breaking oil and gas prices become disturbingly routine. Even AAA, dedicated to America's love affair with the automobile and the open road, concedes that it's time for conservation.
Conservation also plays prominently in the greening of IT - chief among them The Green Grid for data centers and Climate Savers for PCs, laptops and servers. These and other initiatives, including the green payoff of telework and online service delivery, are detailed in the Center for Digital Government's recent report, Simply Green: A Few Steps in the Right Direction toward Integrating Sustainability into Public Sector IT. It was excerpted in the May issue of this magazine and is available in its entirety as a free download at the Center for Digital Government Web site.
The greening of IT has been a rhetorical success, but it has left many planners and policymakers hungry for data that demonstrates real-world effectiveness. They have voiced concerns that this young art is still characterized by what one old wag called data-free analysis.
Consider the green hue emanating from a previously understated component of Virginia's $2 billion IT infrastructure partnership with Northrop Grumman. The contract included a scheduled refresh of the state government's PCs, laptops and servers, but was by no means a headline grabber when the 10-year pact was signed in late 2005. In the interim, Virginia has replaced 60,000 PCs and laptops with Energy Star-rated machines. Energy consumption has dropped by 32 percent, producing hard-dollar savings estimated at $12 million each year. Virginia CIO Lem Stewart said servers are next on the list and preliminary estimates of energy savings begin in the six figures.
Speaking of servers, public agencies in New York have reported on the cost and conservation impacts of their consolidation and virtualization efforts. The state department of motor vehicles virtualized 277 servers across only 11 physical machines. The results? The New York DMV realized more than a 25-to-1 savings in server acquisition, power, air conditioning, uninterruptible power supply, floor space, security, support and maintenance costs.
Ratios like that are game changers, and we shouldn't really care what color gets the credit - green (sustainability) or black (the bottom line).
The math also works in New York City's favor, as it boosted server utilization rates as much as 60 percent. Through virtualization, the city increased its computing capacity by the equivalent of 400 servers and also avoided implementing an additional 350 servers. The city estimates savings at $7.9 million so far. To paraphrase an old bit of American political folk wisdom: $7.9 million here and $7.9 million there, and pretty soon, you're talking about real money.
As evidence continues to mount, there's reason to believe that where a green IT return on investment is concerned, there is a there there. That leaves the question of how to capitalize on the initial investment. As it happens, the Center for Digital Government has a new white paper on that subject too. More on that next month as we hope to add it to your pile of summer reading, all with a view of continuing the love affair with computing and open, high-performance government.