Top Green IT Enterprises of 2009

Green-technology projects flourished at organizations of all sizes in 2008, a trend that, at first blush, might seem counterintuitive. Given the economic hardships companies are facing, you might expect that projects seemingly tied to feel-good corporate social responsibility endeavors would take a backseat to initiatives aimed at bolstering the bottom line.

However, as this year's crop of Green 15 award winners demonstrates, the rewards of green-technology projects are far from limited to noble goals such as cutting greenhouse gas emissions, reducing landfill buildup, preserving trees, and the like. Rather, organizations leveraging green tech are realizing gains in efficiency, productivity, and cost savings. These business benefits are key drivers behind many green IT projects -- sometimes overriding good environmental intentions.

[See last year's list of Green 15 winners. Keep abreast of green IT news and tips by subscribing to InfoWorld's free weekly Green Tech newsletter.]

That's no reason to discount the environmental merits of any of the projects that appear in the 2009 Green 15 winners' list or any of the other countless green-tech initiatives being pursued by companies across the globe. Whatever the rationale for a green IT project, one fact is clear. The outcome of a green-tech project is generally win-win: a healthier planet and a healthier bottom line.

This year's winners are, in alphabetical order:

Gains from Green IT

The business gains organizations reap from sustainable IT vary from project to project. For example, winners such as the U.S. Navy and California State University East Bay reduced energy consumption and saved floor space through virtualization, consolidation, and adjustments to datacenter layout to reduce cooling needs. As a result, they managed to save on electricity and future hardware refreshes while making their networks more stable. All the while, they reduced their carbon footprints -- and even succeeded in postponing expensive, resource-intensive datacenter expansion projects.

Meanwhile, organizations such as Procter & Gamble and Burt's Bees embraced collaboration systems such as telepresence and videoconferencing. They too reaped both business and environmental benefits. On the business side, they were able to significantly reduce costly, time-consuming travel, thus saving on airline tickets while speeding up decision-making through faster meetings. On the environmental end, they slashed travel-related carbon emissions as well.

Similar outcomes can be seen throughout this year's lineup of Green 15 winners. The U.S. Postal Service and Con-way Freight used smart technology to optimize their supply chains. By devising more efficient delivery routes, they slashed transportation costs and fuel consumption. Through print-waste management projects, organizations such as Aramark were able to unplug and retire old personal printers and instead use fewer, more-energy-efficient multifunction devices. The result: lower energy costs, a drop in paper waste thanks to dual-sided printing -- and the logical environmental benefits. PC power management projects, again, yielded lower electricity bills and thus fewer CO2 emissions.

Green IT Isn't Plug-and-Play

The project leaders of many of this year's Green 15 projects cited not only the technological challenges of their endeavors, but also the cultural challenges. Investing in multifunction devices capable of dual-sided printing, a virtualized server environment, or a telepresence studio is one thing; getting their constituents to stop printing one-sided color documents, ordering new servers, or booking flights to Sydney for a meeting is something else entirely.

Getting users, corporate leaders, and stakeholders to support and participate in green-tech initiative takes work. Green 15 winners used strategies such as training and rewards, as well as ongoing updates to employees and leaders on the ongoing success of the programs. Seeing the results inspired employees at all levels to continue supporting the sustainability efforts.

On a final note, it's worthwhile to consider the breadth of organizations represented in this year's Green 15, from large organizations such as Procter & Gamble and the U.S. Navy to more modest-size organization such as the California Academy of Sciences and the Niagara Catholic School District. The lesson: No matter an organization's size or industry, it can realize business and environmental benefits through green IT. Given the state of both the economy and the environment, every project can make a difference.

Aramark cuts print waste with better devices, software

In the business world, it's not unusual to find scores of documents abandoned in printers or copiers, or else tossed in a nearby recycling bin. Yet the financial and environmental cost of all that wasted paper and those expensive ink cartridges can be substantial. Then there's all the power consumed by outdated and excessive single-function machines: printers, copiers, scanners, and faxes.

Aramark, a professional services company, found itself with hundreds of devices at four of its offices in Philadelphia and Downer's Grove, Ill. Many of the machines were old, inefficient, and incapable of dual-sided printing. Moreover, an abundance of the machines were personal printers, which are wasteful but necessary for security purposes since employees sometimes have to print documents containing sensitive data, and it's more secure to do so at one's desk than on a remote machine where the hard copies can find their way into the wrong hands.

The company recognized that it was time for a new print program to address several needs. "The inspiration was financial and environmental," says David Kaufman, CIO of Aramark's global food and facility services businesses. "We wanted to reduce cost, waste, and the number of support calls to the IT support desk."

The company succeeded in achieving its goals by retiring old stand-alone single-function printers with a reduced number of multifunction devices from Konica Minolta and networked printers from Hewlett-Packard. The company responsibly recycled the old machines through Redemtech.

The move lowered Aramark's electricity bill because the new machines are more energy-efficient than their predecessors. Moreover, there are fewer machines overall, which further reduced electricity consumption. Finally, all the multifunction devices can be powered down from a single remote location.

Additionally, the new machines have helped the company reduce paper and toner consumption in several ways. They offer dual-sided printing; plus, they allow users to scan and share electronic files rather than having to print out hard copies to distribute. Also, admins can remotely adjust printing quality so that machines use less toner.

As for the security concerns, Aramark opted for machines and print-management software that can require employees to enter a PIN before they can retrieve printouts from a machine. (This, too, can reduce paper waste, as it ensures that a printout doesn't end up abandoned because an employee forgets to collect it.)

The reduction in the number of machines was relatively modest. Aramark has thus far gone from 902 printers to 773, although more machines will be phased out down the road. Still, the overall savings have added up quickly. Aramark says it has reduced paper consumption by 200,000 sheets per year and toner purchases by 20 percent. All told, the company estimates $35,000 in annual savings on paper, ink, and electricity. On top of that, support calls for printer issues have decreased by 14 percent.

As with many IT initiatives, Aramark's managed print program required acceptance and participation from its 2,000 users, which, Kauffman says, was the biggest challenge: "Many Aramark employees were accustomed to individual or personal printers."

IT made sure users were fully trained to take advantage of the equipment's new features, such as dual-sided printing, scan-to-e-mail, and secure printing. IT also highlighted the environmental benefits and cost savings. On top of the education and training, the company ran a couple of contests to increase interest and to demonstrate the benefits of the multifunction devices. For example, employees submitted responses by scanning their answers and sending them via e-mail.

"We learned that explaining the business case and the green aspects made people much more accepting of the new processes," says Kauffman.

Burt's Bees undergoes green IT makeover

Burt's Bees has staked its reputation on being an environmentally friendly business, having committed to being "the greenest personal care company on Earth." With such a lofty goal, it's no surprise that the company has found a variety of ways to embrace green IT to reduce waste and carbon emissions.

Indeed, Burt's Bees has undergone a virtual top-to-bottom green IT makeover, starting with the datacenter. The first objective was to reduce energy consumption, both for powering and cooling hardware -- all the while keeping pace with its ever-increasing computational and storage requirements associated with business growth.

The solution was server and storage virtualization. "The move to server and SAN virtualization was born out of the necessity to support a quickly growing business that was bringing business applications online," says Ted Hein, director of information services. "We needed solutions that could scale alongside the business. Buying separate physical servers -- dev and production -- for each application was intimidating and decidedly not sustainable. We also had real constraints in rack space and power in our datacenter."

The company moved most of its core applications to an EMC VMware virtual server environment, and instead of purchasing 21 new servers, it balanced 53 virtual machines across a cluster of three highly efficient and powerful physical servers. Server virtualization reduced energy consumption by 147,962 kWh per year and energy needed to cool the datacenter by 32,377 kWh per year.

As for storage, the company transitioned from DAS to more scalable and efficient virtualized storage. The company first tried high-capacity SATA-based NAS, but deemed it insufficient for the company's performance and scalability needs. Thus, the company opted for SAN hardware from NetApp. In addition to the 53 virtual machines on the company's three VMware servers, the NetApp cluster supports a file share with file and print services, a Symantec backup server, and the company's Microsoft Exchange Server environment.

All told, Burt's Bees was able to triple capacity of the SAN using data deduplication and thin provisioning. The shift enabled the company to reclaim more than 350GB for every terabyte of storage moved onto the SAN.

In an effort to wring even further efficiency out of the datacenter, the company reduced the facility's cooling load by aligning ducts and upgrading its HVAC system from one with a SEER (seasonal energy efficiency rating) score of 13 to one with the more efficient score of 18 (one that also used ozone-friendly coolant).

Beyond the datacenter, Burt's Bees' IT staff implemented an array of green-tech projects. Among them, the company deployed unified communications, enabling communication among offices around the world via instant messaging (IM), voice, video, and online meetings. This effort reduced travel, thus saving money as well as reducing associated greenhouse gas emissions. According to Hein, it has also improved collaboration and productivity.

Notably, getting employees to take advantage of the various unified communication technologies took some effort. "Unified communications is, by nature, an opt-in system. This presents a challenge for adoption curve as people tend to be creatures of habit when it comes to how they communicate and collaborate with one another," says Hein. "They use the tools they are most comfortable with."

The company initially overcame the learning curve using training sessions, which generated some momentum for internal IM. Next came the effort to increase usage of live meeting and videoconferencing. "While a few people took to this quickly, we really needed to encourage this by looking for opportunities to show its potential in everyday meetings," says Hein.

Burt's Bees' other green IT initiatives included installing real-time monitoring of electricity, water, natural gas, and air-conditioning consumption; replacing CRTs with LCDs, thus saving 70 kWh per year per display; and recycling used print cartridges.

California Academy of Sciences reaps efficiencies through network convergence

From top to bottom, San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences (CAS) has shaped up to be the greenest building in the City by the Bay. For example, it's expected to use 50 percent less energy than California codes allow a standard building to consume. Although some of that greenness can be attributed to factors such as architectural design and usage of clean energy -- the building has a Leadership in Energy and Environmental (LEED) Platinum design rating, for example -- IT elements are playing their part as well.

Based in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, the facility encompasses a museum of natural history, a planetarium, and an aquarium, all under one living roof. CAS enlisted Teecom Design Group to apply a green mindset to the IT infrastructure of the facility.

One of the company's techniques was to eliminate redundant backbone systems by making them all IP-based, says David Marks, a principal at Teecom. That includes the building's telecommunication systems -- which now run over VoIP -- as well as security, lighting, and temperature controls (including for the fish tanks), and audio/visual. Traditionally, each system would have required its own dedicated, independent equipment and wiring. "We've eliminated redundant systems and different conduits and backbone cabling. All you have in the building now is a data network with a few more connections," Marks says.

The approach resulted in significant savings, according to Marks. "For the AV system, for example, we saved over $1 million in conduits, cabling, and equipment by migrating to the network," he said. "All the sound and video displays that used to run through proprietary cables can be pushed over the network now."

All in all, Teecom's design saved the Academy more than $2.3 million in material costs and more than $875,000 per year in recurring costs.

Beyond saving money and reducing waste, centralizing the various systems eases management, he notes. If, say, an exhibit goes down, it can be fixed quickly in the datacenter with a backup server, rather than requiring an admin to go to the proper floor in search of the rogue server in order to perform maintenance.

Cal State East Bay turns to green tech to fend off power crisis

California State University East Bay (CSUEB) faced a serious datacenter problem: It needed an infrastructure overhaul, yet local utility company PG&E couldn't provide enough electricity to meet the institution's growing computational and storage needs.

"Our datacenter was hurtling toward an all-out power crisis," says Rich Avila, director of server operations and system support at CSUEB. "The total amount of power being used in our datacenter was 67 kVA, and the maximum power from the current plant was 75 kVA. We would be out of power in less than six months. A new datacenter was planned but would not be available for two years."

Compounding the problem was that the university had enacted a new initiative, reaffirming its commitment to being green. "This was something we took very seriously as we looked for a solution to our energy problems," Avila says.

A survey of the datacenter revealed one of the roots of the problem: underutilization of existing resources. "[We] did a survey and determined that our server utilization rates were down around 6 percent, and our storage utilization was not much better at 10 to 15 percent. We had been purchasing and deploying servers and storage on an ad-hoc basis, with most of the storage attached directly to servers or to one of two small SANs."

Because of this decentralized configuration, spare capacity purchased for one project was going to waste because it wasn't being used anywhere else. As is common in many datacenters, CSUEB was paying to house, power, cool, and manage hardware that was doing little to no work.

The school found its solution in server and storage virtualization. CSUEB installed three 8-way Sun X4600 servers to comprise the EMC VMware infrastructure, allowing for hosting of up to 100 virtual servers. For storage consolidation, CSUEB replaced its proliferation of storage equipment with a single 43TB 3Par InServ Storage Server. One of the selling points of the InServ, Avila says, is that you can add capacity as needed, meaning you don't have excess spinning disks using up energy while providing no value.

At the close of the project, 17 NAS servers had been migrated to the combined 3Par InServ and VMware system, and all of the aging SAN equipment was migrated to the InServer Server as well. Moreover, CSUEB was able to add 21 new application servers as virtual machines that would otherwise have required additional physical server hardware. Today, CSUEB hosts a total of 75 virtual servers on the three-node VMware infrastructure. And to prevent future server sprawl, the school requires that all new servers be provisioned as virtual guests unless otherwise justified.

On top of the virtualization efforts, CSUEB implemented hot and cold aisles, which helps to reduce hot spots and saves energy on cooling. Moreover, IT personnel moved to working spaces outside the datacenter, meaning the lights can be kept off in the facility most of the time. "They only come in to change tapes or respond to server issues now," said Avila.

The virtualized environment and other improvements have taken CSUEB's datacenter from 39.1 kWh to 1.7 kWh, representing a 95 percent savings -- which adds up to an estimated $2,500 per month. Moreover, thermal output has dropped by 95 percent, thus reducing the energy required to cool the datacenter. Further sweetening the deal: CSUEB received a rebate from PG&E for deploying energy-saving storage hardware.

The virtualized environment has taken energy usage at CSUEB's datacenter from 39.1 kWh down to 1.7 kWh, representing a 95 percent savings. Moreover, thermal output has also dropped by 95 percent, thus reducing the energy required to cool the datacenter. Further sweetening the deal is that CSUEB received a rebate from PG&E for deploying energy-saving storage hardware.

Con-way Freight slashes annual fuel consumption by 4.9 million gallons

Reducing fuel consumption has become a high priority in the business world, both for financial and environmental reasons. Companies dependent on planes, trucks, cars, boats, and the like have felt the financial pinch of increasing fuel prices. They've also felt pressure, both from inside the company and from the public, to reduce vehicle emissions that cause air pollution and global warming.

One company that has sought to rein in fuel consumption is Con-way Freight. In 2008, the company launched a project called Network Rationalization in an effort to reengineer its line-haul distribution network -- the movement of freight between its 300 service centers, where 100,000 customer shipments are picked up and delivered daily. The purpose for the overhaul was twofold: First, to cut operational costs while maintaining or exceeding service levels; second, to lower the company's carbon emissions by reducing miles traveled and fuel consumed.

"A key aspect of this project was defining and producing metrics that demonstrate how potential changes would save Con-way money. In this case, line-haul miles and line-haul cost savings were very important," says Jeff Holmes, enterprise architect for Con-way Enterprise Services. "Being able to link those metrics to a positive impact on the environment further justified the project."

In years past, determining the impacts of changes to the network was a very imprecise and labor-intensive endeavor, says Holmes. Load planning relied on the expertise of a few people in the line-haul office to optimize the use of drivers and equipment for moving freight from origin to destination according to a load plan. It could take a load planner a full two months to analyze the design trade-offs and cost implications of redistributing line-haul freight at a single service center.

Fortunately, the company had a newly developed line-haul simulation tool at its disposal, a custom-made C++ simulator engine wrapped with a Web interface that lets load planners control how simulations are performed and that can model changes to a freight distribution network. The tool simulates the flow of freight through the proposed network over a configurable period of time based on set shipment volumes, and it details whether changes are beneficial from a number of perspectives, including traffic per lane, poundage handled per service center, total miles traveled, and overall cost.

The line-haul simulator, by the way, is deployed in Con-way's datacenter, which takes advantage of recently implemented virtualization technologies and energy reduction measures that cut the company's carbon emissions by about 600,000 pounds in 2008.

In just two months, Con-way was able to reduce the overall size of the line-haul distribution network by 10 percent (resulting in 40 fewer service centers) while supporting the existing freight throughput. The Network Rationalization project has eliminated 124,000 miles per day from line-haul operations (5.2 percent of 2.4 million total daily miles) through more efficient routing and use of third-party truckload carriers (which use more direct routes). This will conserve 4.9 million gallons of diesel fuel annually, saving $14 million in fuel expense and reducing carbon emissions by 108.8 million pounds annually. Overall, this reengineering effort will save Con-way Freight $30 million to $40 million annually in operating costs and significantly reduce its carbon footprint.

Digital Realty Trust sets new standard for green datacenter design

Digital Realty Trust made green datacenter history in 2007 with the completion of the world's first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold-certified datacenter in the United States. In 2008, the company achieved another laudable milestone, earning the first BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) Excellent rating for a datacenter facility in the United Kingdom.

The BREEAM certification recognizes the 11,000-square-meter datacenter, based in Welwyn, England, for its energy efficiency, environmentally sound construction, and efficient operation practices.

Notably, BREEAM certification for datacenters did not exist when Digital Realty Trust started to build the facility in Welwyn, notes Jim Smith, CTO at Digital Realty Trust. Rather, there was only a general standard for commercial buildings. Working with Digital Realty on the project, the Building Research Establishment -- a U.K. construction industry consortium -- was able to create BREEAM certification criteria specific to datacenters. Thus, companies in Europe now have a template to follow for building the green datacenters of the future.

Constructing an energy-efficient datacenter in an environmentally friendly manner isn't just good for the planet -- it can also result in significant savings on utility bills by reducing the amount of electricity needed to power and cool the IT hardware. Those costs have soared in recent years as machines have become denser and run hotter -- to the point that some datacenter operators find that for each dollar they spend to power a machine, they must spend another dollar to cool it.

Digital Realty Trust used several techniques to maximize the Welwyn datacenter's energy efficiency. For example, the facility uses chilled-water cooling instead of cooled air, which results in an energy savings of 29 percent. The facility's room-ventilation cooling design, as opposed to standard UPS-supported air conditioning, delivers an energy savings rate of 72 percent. Additionally, the facility uses a custom-designed heat-recovery system in which heat pumps take returned chilled water at 61 degrees Fahrenheit and cool it to 50 degrees. This enables the condenser side of the heat pump to provide the water at 122 degrees for heating. Through this approach, the Welwyn facility should realize energy savings of up to 83 percent when compared to the alternative use of a gas-fire condensing boiler.

Measuring performance on an ongoing basis is a critical step toward boosting efficiency and sleuthing out inefficiencies. To that end, the datacenter uses metering devices from all power sources through to each power distribution unit in the building. This lets the datacenter operator actively monitor the efficiency of delivered power throughout the system and identify any areas in which effective power delivery may be compromised.

Moreover, the building's automation system contributes to the facility's energy efficiency, automatically responding to changing conditions. For example, it can shift to free-cooling mode -- drawing on free outside air to cool the IT equipment -- based on atmospheric changes. It can also adjust internal temperatures, including the raised floor areas, based on time of day or customer-defined thresholds.

Digital Realty Trust found other ways to reduce waste with this new datacenter facility. For example, the external and ancillary lighting are all powered by photovoltaic cells located on the roof. Fifty-three percent of the site was constructed from recycled material. Furthermore, the company preserved the surrounding indigenous flora and fauna, and irrigation of the Welwyn facility's landscaping is provided through a rainwater-harvesting system that also supports interior applications.

All these techniques add up to significant savings and environmental benefits. The Welwyn facility is expected to enjoy annual energy savings of 48.2 million kWh, cost savings of $4.7 million, and an annual CO2 emission reduction of 20,090 tons.

GlaxoSmithKline sheds nearly 6 tons of e-waste

As is often the case at many organizations, employees at pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) had come to simply accept the presence of abandoned IT equipment left powered on in offices and cubicles. That tendency had been going on for years, in fact, until Armin Jahromi, the company's regional service manager for IT user services, had had enough. It was time to orchestrate a top-to-bottom, environmentally responsible cleanup of all of the old IT gear in the company's Franklin Plaza site in Philadelphia.

The inspiration for the project was primarily driven by environmental considerations, Jahromi says. "With the world so technology-driven -- with mobile phones, desktops, laptops, monitors, printers, toner/ink cartridges, cables, CD and DVD media, USB drives, and so on being turned over at such a rapid pace -- landfills are increasing in size with these materials, some of which are toxic and some of which will never biodegrade. I believe we in the IT industry now have a social responsibility to reduce the volume of tech waste and the energy it consumes as much as possible."

Both personal and business objectives played a part, too: "On a personal level, I hate to see waste -- whether at home or in the office," says Jahromi. "In the corporate environment, it is natural to see people come and go. Unfortunately in today's market, there are more people going than coming, and as a result, desktops and laptops that had been allocated are sitting idle -- some still powered on."

That's wasteful for two reasons, he notes: First, those unused devices powered on are wasting energy, which costs GSK money. Second, a number of these devices are technologically current and could be redeployed elsewhere.

So, 35 "e-cycle champions" at GSK volunteered to recruit people on their respective floors to participate and identify unused assets and serve as the liaisons between the user community and IT. "The rule of thumb we stressed to our users was 'If it hasn't been used within a year, get rid of it,'" says Jahromi.

The IT desktop services group had four technicians to collect the identified assets from the 32 floors over the span of one week. Facilities operations took the assets for disposal, loaded the trucks, and delivered them to PlanITROI, an IT asset disposal company.

Educating users about the program in advance and getting them involved helped make the project a success, says Jahromi. "There were a few floors where we were unable to attain a volunteer, and it was those floors that noticeably had fewer assets tagged for removal. For any initiative that requires user participation, volunteers or champions is a must," he said.

The week's worth of work reaped significant rewards: Users collected nearly 1,000 devices weighing 5.8 tons, including 140 desktops, 124 monitors, 68 laptops, and 86 monitors, as well as fax machines, typewriters, keyboards, mice, scanners, and other accessories. Simply unplugging that unused hardware has reduced the company's annual electricity consumption by 190,442 kWh for a savings of $21,000 per year. As a result, the company reduced its CO2 output by 285,663 pounds per year.

While some of the collected gear had outlived its useful life and ended up being recycled, other devices were suited for resale. "The number of assets that do have value will generate a 60 percent return back to GSK from the resale," says Jahromi. "As GSK 'e-cycles' all its tech-refreshed assets, the revenue generated in 2008 from the U.S. alone was over $1 million."

The program was very well received by the residents of Franklin Plaza, says Jahromi -- so much so IT decided to have a second week for collectio

Like an increasing number of companies, wholesale distributor HD Supply has found green religion. The company last year launched its Ideally Green initiative, which entails delivering greener products to customers while demonstrating greater corporate responsibility for the environment.

Not surprisingly, the company has turned to the power of IT to help achieve environmental objectives such as reducing its carbon footprint and cutting waste -- with the pleasant benefit of reducing costs along the way. From the datacenter to the desktop to the conference room and beyond, HD Supply rolled out a host of green-tech projects in 2008.

The IT desktop services group had four technicians to collect the identified assets from the 32 floors over the span of one week. Facilities operations took the assets for disposal, loaded the trucks, and delivered them to PlanITROI, an IT asset disposal company.

Educating users about the program in advance and getting them involved helped make the project a success, says Jahromi. "There were a few floors where we were unable to attain a volunteer, and it was those floors that noticeably had fewer assets tagged for removal. For any initiative that requires user participation, volunteers or champions is a must," he said.

The week's worth of work reaped significant rewards: Users collected nearly 1,000 devices weighing 5.8 tons, including 140 desktops, 124 monitors, 68 laptops, and 86 monitors, as well as fax machines, typewriters, keyboards, mice, scanners, and other accessories. Simply unplugging that unused hardware has reduced the company's annual electricity consumption by 190,442 kWh for a savings of $21,000 per year. As a result, the company reduced its CO2 output by 285,663 pounds per year.

While some of the collected gear had outlived its useful life and ended up being recycled, other devices were suited for resale. "The number of assets that do have value will generate a 60 percent return back to GSK from the resale," says Jahromi. "As GSK 'e-cycles' all its tech-refreshed assets, the revenue generated in 2008 from the U.S. alone was over $1 million."

The program was very well received by the residents of Franklin Plaza, says Jahromi -- so much so IT decided to have a second week for collection in which 50 percent more assets were collected. Moreover, residents from other GSK sites in the United States as well as the United Kingdom have asked when an e-cycling program will be hitting their sites. GSK IT plans to continue with this initiative at many of its other sites throughout 2009.

HD Supply rolled out green-tech projects in other parts of the organization as well. For example, the company invested in videoconferencing systems from Polycom and set up equipment in four of its major locations: Orlando, Fla., Atlanta, San Diego, and Costa Mesa, Calif. "In 2008, [we] spent nearly $1 million on travel among these primary sites. We are now able to advise employees who have necessary travel in these locations to consider the videoconferencing option," says Saldanha. "This action has already sharply reduced travel and generated significant savings. In addition, productivity has received a positive bump by eliminating costly travel time and enabling faster decision making and corresponding action."

The company estimates that the videoconferencing solution will reduce travel by more than 25 percent, saving the company nearly $225,000 per year while eliminating more than 196,000 pounds of CO2 that the travel would have produced.

Meanwhile, HD Supply also launched an awareness campaign for employees to conserve. "Green reminder" signs hang about the facilities, prompting people to shut down their computers, turn off lights, and power down other business equipment, such as projectors, when not in use. This campaign has proven effective as well, saving the company more than 300,000 kilowatt hours, producing savings of at least $18,000.

Saldanha says the company has gleaned some important lessons from the successes of its green-tech initiatives. Among them: "We've eliminated the outdated notions that corporate environmental responsibility translates to expense and low-impact results," he says. "Our IT team's initiative demonstrates that we can take responsibility for our environmental impact while driving cost savings, greater efficiencies, and significant positive impact to productivity and other operational needs."

Moreover, Saldanha has discovered just how excited employees can be about embracing green initiatives. "What started out as an assignment for some of our IT team members is now a passion to raise the bar and produce even greater results," he says. "Now that we've seen what green projects can accomplish, there is a sense of anticipation and excitement about what we will tackle next."

n in which 50 percent more assets were collected. Moreover, residents from other GSK sites in the United States as well as the United Kingdom have asked when an e-cycling program will be hitting their sites. GSK IT plans to continue with this initiative at many of its other sites throughout 2009.

HD Supply achieves ecodreams through array of green-tech initiatives

Like an increasing number of companies, wholesale distributor HD Supply has found green religion. The company last year launched its Ideally Green initiative, which entails delivering greener products to customers while demonstrating greater corporate responsibility for the environment.

Not surprisingly, the company has turned to the power of IT to help achieve environmental objectives such as reducing its carbon footprint and cutting waste -- with the pleasant benefit of reducing costs along the way. From the datacenter to the desktop to the conference room and beyond, HD Supply rolled out a host of green-tech projects in 2008.

Plenty of work took place in the datacenter. Overall, the company reduced the size of its datacenter space from 15,000 square feet to 7,000. On the server front, the company retired outdated, end-of-life boxes with 150 energy-efficient blades from Hewlett-Packard that used dynamic power allocation.

The company also embraced server virtualization and consolidation, resulting in a virtual-to-physical server ratio of 3 to 1. The company reports that it virtualized 83 servers over 14 months, reducing power consumption by 10.5 kWh and generating more than $200,000 in savings.

Further, the company has taken steps to reduce future server sprawl. "We now have strict guidelines about when we purchase a physical server versus implementing the application on a virtualized server," says Nigel Saldanha, CTO at HD Supply.

Additionally, the company reduced the number of its storage arrays from 11 to five, using units with higher-density drives and tiered storage. Power needed for storage dropped by 50 percent, and annual storage expenses dropped by nearly $500,000.

Work in the datacenter didn't end there. The company also boosted cooling efficiency by redesigning the datacenter aisles -- adding targeted, floor-based cooling and alternating hot/cold aisles -- to ensure cold air goes only where it's needed. Finally, the datacenter temperature was raised three degrees. Thanks to these steps, the datacenter now requires 30 tons less air for equipment cooling purposes, reducing the facility's carbon footprint while generating more than $83,000 in annual savings.

HD Supply rolled out green-tech projects in other parts of the organization as well. For example, the company invested in videoconferencing systems from Polycom and set up equipment in four of its major locations: Orlando, Fla., Atlanta, San Diego, and Costa Mesa, Calif. "In 2008, [we] spent nearly $1 million on travel among these primary sites. We are now able to advise employees who have necessary travel in these locations to consider the videoconferencing option," says Saldanha. "This action has already sharply reduced travel and generated significant savings. In addition, productivity has received a positive bump by eliminating costly travel time and enabling faster decision making and corresponding action."

The company estimates that the videoconferencing solution will reduce travel by more than 25 percent, saving the company nearly $225,000 per year while eliminating more than 196,000 pounds of CO2 that the travel would have produced.

Meanwhile, HD Supply also launched an awareness campaign for employees to conserve. "Green reminder" signs hang about the facilities, prompting people to shut down their computers, turn off lights, and power down other business equipment, such as projectors, when not in use. This campaign has proven effective as well, saving the company more than 300,000 kilowatt hours, producing savings of at least $18,000.

Saldanha says the company has gleaned some important lessons from the successes of its green-tech initiatives. Among them: "We've eliminated the outdated notions that corporate environmental responsibility translates to expense and low-impact results," he says. "Our IT team's initiative demonstrates that we can take responsibility for our environmental impact while driving cost savings, greater efficiencies, and significant positive impact to productivity and other operational needs."

Moreover, Saldanha has discovered just how excited employees can be about embracing green initiatives. "What started out as an assignment for some of our IT team members is now a passion to raise the bar and produce even greater results," he says. "Now that we've seen what green projects can accomplish, there is a sense of anticipation and excitement about what we will tackle next."

Intel finds significant savings by pushing the limits of free cooling

Wouldn't it be nice if you could simply shut off the computer-room air conditioning units in your datacenter? You'd no longer be exposed to temperatures found in a meat locker -- but more important, you'd reduce your facility's energy consumption significantly if you didn't have to keep your machines chilled, resulting in lower energy bills and a smaller carbon footprint.

Notably, some datacenter operators have dabbled in running their datacenters sans artificially cooled air, relying instead on an air-side economizer. An economizer draws on outside air to cool the datacenter, then pushes the hot air that exits the machines outdoors. But use of this so-called free cooling tends to be limited to regions with temperate climates, where there's no risk to servers from harsh conditions.

However, Intel last year performed a groundbreaking experiment in free cooling, one that provided some invaluable data as to just how resilient servers can be and how much electricity and money might be saved by reducing datacenter reliance on artificial cooling. The company tested the limits of air-side economization by allowing production servers be cooled by outside air at temperatures as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Furthermore, the company challenged the perception that using outside air can be harmful to servers in that it subjects machines to excessive humidity and contaminants.

"As a leader in both technology and green initiatives, Intel needed to take a risk in the datacenter space to understand what might be possible if we were willing to challenge our long-standing datacenter assumptions," says Don Atwood, regional datacenter manager. "We believed this could change the way Intel and other companies consume energy in the future."

Intel orchestrated its proof of concept at a datacenter location in New Mexico by setting up about 900 heavily used production servers in a 1,000-square-foot trailer, which was split into two 500-foot compartments. One compartment was cooled 24/7 by a relatively low-cost, warehouse-grade direct-expansion air-conditioning unit; the other was cooled almost exclusively by outside air, though it was also equipped to be cooled by the direct-expansion chiller if the need arose.

As explained by Intel's report on this test, "We designed the system to use only the economizer until the supply air exceeded the 90-degree maximum, at which point we began using the chiller to cool the air to 90 degrees. If the temperature dropped below 65 degrees, we warmed the supply air by mixing it with hot return air from the servers."

Ninety degrees is an unusually high temperature for a server room; Intel says in the report that it traditionally sets its chiller temperature to 68 degrees in its datacenters. Conventional wisdom dictates that air-side economization is better for mild, temperate climates, not regions where temperatures can hit the 80s, 90s, and beyond. There was method to Intel's seeming madness, however: "We reasoned that this might be feasible because server manufacturers specify that their products can operate in temperatures as high as 98 degrees."

Not content with simply pushing the temperature boundaries, Intel wanted to gauge how resilient the machines could be to humidity and air contaminants. To that end, Intel used no humidity controls whatsoever and installed just a standard household air filter "that removed only large particles from the incoming air but permitted fine dust to pass through."

Intel didn't go easy on its machines as it conducted this experiment. The chipmaker says that the servers were working at 90 percent utilization during the testing, crunching large production batch silicon design workloads.

As for the type of servers, Intel says they were standard, single-core, dual-socket, Intel-based machines that were roughly two years old. In other words, Intel didn't enlist specially hardened or ruggedized equipment but instead used the same type of machines found in the company's other datacenters.

During the 10-month test, Intel found that the machines cooled by outside air experienced humidity variations from 4 percent to more than 90 percent, and that it changed rapidly at times. Moreover, "the servers and the interior of the compartment became covered in a layer of dust."

Once the experiment was complete, Intel calculated that the air-economized trailer required 74 percent fewer kWh to keep cool then the air-conditioned trailer. Based on the testing, Intel concluded that in this particular region, at least, it could rely on air-side economizers 91 percent of the time and save $2.9 million on cooling at a 10MW datacenter. That also means significant water savings -- 76 million gallons annually -- and a tremendous carbon-footprint reduction.

The other big question, of course, is how well did the server weather the unusually harsh conditions? After all, a datacenter full of fried or dust-clogged machines is pretty much worthless, no matter how inexpensive it is to cool. The answer: surprisingly well. "Despite the dust and variation in humidity and temperature, there was only a minimal difference between the 4.46 percent failure rate in the economizer compartment and the 3.83 percent failure rate in our main datacenter over the same period," Intel reports. "The failure rate in the trailer compartment with DX [direct-expansion] cooling was 2.45 percent, actually lower than in the main datacenter."

In fact, according to Intel's Atwood, the company sent three sets of identical servers (both type and age) to IBM for a blind study to determine the potential long-term affects of the harsh weather conditions on the machines. The three sets of servers included machines running on the free cooling side of the test facility, servers from the closed-loop cooling side of the test facility, and servers from Intel's enterprise datacenter. "IBM was unable to differentiate the enterprise condition servers from the free cooling servers and/or the closed loop cooling side," Atwood says.

Niagara Catholic School District turns to e-docs to cut paper and transport costs

The paperless office may still be years away, but some organizations are already reaping the benefits of a less-paper office: replacing reams of paper with easier-to-manage, environmentally friendlier electronic documents.

One such organization is the Niagara Catholic School District Board (NCSDB), which oversees 53 elementary schools, eight secondary schools, six adult education sites, and a central office. The NCSDB is a member of Canada's Eco-Schools Initiative, a project that aims to teach students how to be ecofriendly. To support this initiative, the board scrutinized the district's business practices to find ways to reduce its environmental impact. The board quickly realized that its paper-intensive processes were not just impeding productivity, they were also keeping the board from reaching its sustainability goals.

The school district is required by law to keep student files for 55 years, which amounts to a lot of paper. The district found itself running out of space to store all its documents, which continued to pile up each day. Moreover, reliance on paper had other drawbacks. For example, many of the forms used in the administrative offices required multiple approvals. Thus, courier trucks had to drive around the district for daily pickups and deliveries of forms, resulting in high transportation costs and a large carbon footprint. In addition to being environmentally unfriendly, the process often resulted in lost data and delays in approval processes.

The solution: an ECM (electronic content management) system. Using Visioneer scanners, the board converted paper documents to electronic files. Using Xerox DocuShare software, those digital files were stored in electronic document depository. The board's existing eSchool Solutions SmartFindExpress application -- which processes substitute teacher requests -- was integrated with DocuShare and the district's Webernetic @Work for School Board Processes software. These combined systems gave the district that ability to automate leave-of-absence approvals, substitute teacher scheduling, HR documentation, and payroll steps -- without all the paper or wasted time. For example, processing a teacher leave-of-absence request once took threes pieces of paper and a lengthy approval process. It's now simply done online in about 30 seconds and approved in minutes.

The project started with the district's HR department, then was rolled out to all the schools. Now the ECM system is accessible to more than 30,000 students, parents, and teachers, thus reducing the amount of hard-copy documents that are printed and sent home.

Moreover, school administrators waste less time and fuel travelling between locations to collect documents and signatures. "When we look back now at where we are, there is not one person in our department that would ever want to go back to paper again," says Lana Pasto, human resource coordinator for the district.

With its ECM implementation, the NCSDB was able to reach its sustainability goals by drastically cutting the district's paper consumption while unlocking new efficiencies and cutting costs. For example, the district can now publish its monthly newsletter online rather than printing it and mailing it out, thus sparing the lives of many trees while saving the district $38,000 per year on printing and postage. Additionally, the board has eliminated one courier driver responsible for transporting hard copies among locations, thus reducing wear and tear on local roads, cutting down on fuel usage, and saving money.

Additionally, now that the district's HR department has digitized some 800,000 documents, the NCSDB is no longer struggling with a shortage of storage space. Furthermore, 8,000 old hanging folders previously used to store paper documents were given to the district's elementary schools, "thus giving them money to spend on other things rather than stationery for the school," says Pasto.

"We [also] took the used binders and sent them to schools with students whose parents couldn't afford to buy them binders. Other binders were shipped to third-world countries. We're all about recycling," says Pasto.

PNNL proves just how smart a smart grid can be

There's been plenty of talk in recent years about upgrading the country's aging, inefficient, unreliable electricity-delivery system to a smart grid: an intelligent system that promises to make energy flow more freely, more reliably, more efficiently, and at lower costs to both consumers and businesses. Such a system certainly has support; President Barack Obama included funding for the development of a smart grid in his proposed stimulus package.

Talking about a smart grid is easy. But demonstrating its effectiveness and value in a real-world implementation is a significant challenge. Yet the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), with the assistance of IBM, took on the task last year with its GridWise Olympic Peninsula Project. "[We] wanted to show both the depth and breadth of smart grid functionality by integrating both demand response and distributed generation to affect multiple levels of the power grid at the same time," says Robert Pratt, the GridWise program leader. "This helps the power company to manage delivery and reduce power outages in an overloaded power grid."

The homes and businesses of participating customers were equipped with multiple intelligent utility devices, from thermostats to water heaters. The devices were tied to the PNNL power-delivery system using Internet-scale Control Systems (ICS), a prototype interoperability framework from IBM. Customers programmed their thermostats and water heaters with tools on the Web, providing preference information such as whether they were willing to have their home or office temperature automatically adjust in case of a power shortage.

The underlying ICS software took customer inputs, combined it with real-time grid-sensor data, generation capacity, and market-trend information, and automatically adjusted each device as necessary. As a result, the software helped keep the grid running smoothly by dynamically and intelligently responding to stress in the system, kicking in only when there was an energy shortage and curtailing only those loads that consumers were willing to shed.

The capabilities of the system didn't end there. The software also purchased electricity from providers based on real-time prices that fluctuated with supply and demand. As a result, those users willing to shift high consumption to off-peak hours -- thus easing stress on the grid -- also reap savings thanks to lower energy bills.

One of the biggest challenges PNNL faced was engaging customers to participate in the pilot program, Pratt says. "We needed to create a no-lose value proposition ensuring that residents and businesses understood that they had nothing to lose and could only gain from their participation."

As an incentive, PNNL offered the 112 participating residences and businesses a 10 percent discount on their utility bills. Making the Web interface easy to use also contributed to the project's success, Pratt says.

The project yielded up to 50 percent reduction in short-term peak distribution loads and an average of 15 percent decrease in overall peak loads over the course of one year. PNNL projects that if all customers were engaged in reducing peak loads at this level, peak electricity prices would drop substantially. Furthermore, about $70 billion worth of new construction for generation, transmission, and distribution systems could be avoided over a 20-year period.

PNNL and IBM also gleaned valuable lessons about adjusting the "throttle" of electricity generating stations to meet fluctuating demands. If those adjustments are made on a continual basis, it results in excessive wear and tear on equipment, as well as wasted fuel.

"By setting a limit on demand by purchasing power every five minutes, we found we were able eliminate these fluctuations completely at times," says Pratt. "This is especially important as the U.S. continues to incorporate large amounts of wind resources. Then, we are not only managing changing customer demand but also fluctuating wind resources. Managing the grid is becoming increasingly complex as we add renewables, and smart-grid approaches like this will really help."

Since project completion, energy-use management programs modeled after the Olympic Peninsula Project are being considered for implementation both across the United States and abroad, Pratt says. Meanwhile, IBM is drawing on the results from the project to advise the Obama administration on incorporating smart utility grids into future infrastructure projects that are under consideration.

P&G finds a green alternative to travel in telepresence

Long-distance travel is general considered a necessity in the business world, providing employees an opportunity for valuable in-person collaboration with coworkers or customers. Yet business travel can also be downright draining, in many senses of the word. It can be tiring, time-consuming, and costly -- not to mention the impact it has on company's environmental footprint. All those miles spent on the road or in the air represent gallons of fuel burned, filling the air with pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

With 138,000 employees spread out across 80 countries, consumer products giant Procter & Gamble has racked up piles of frequent-flier miles over the years -- all the while padding its carbon footprint. With a renewed committed to sustainability, the company sought a way to reduce travel, without sacrificing the personal connections that develop between people in the boardroom.

"P&G is constantly looking for efficient ways to use available resources. An area of focus for the company has been to look at more sustainable alternatives to travel," says Laurie Heltsley, director of global business services. "[We also] recognize that fast and effective collaboration is critical to remain competitive in the marketplace. Innovation requires connections. These connections need to be swift, effective, and user-friendly; sometimes the personal dimension is critical, too."

The company found its solution in telepresence, which lets people interact from remote locations, specially designed studios, using life-size, ultra-high-definition video and audio. The company built a total of 43 telepresence studios around the globe in nine months, thus building the largest telepresence network in the world in sites such as Boston, Geneva, Singapore, and Sydney.

P&G's technology of choice was the trio of Cisco TelePresence Systems (CTS), the 1000, 3000, and 3200 models. The CTS 1000 is designed for small groups meetings around a virtual table. The 3000 is aimed at larger group meetings, creating an environment for six people to meet in one location and to be virtually joined by six additional people. The 3200 supports up to 18 participants per room.

The company uses its studios for all types of collaboration. "It has been used to meet with internal colleagues, business partners, suppliers, customers, and recruits," says Heltsley. "We enable business conversations ranging from events to one-on-ones."

Heltsley says that videoconferencing, which is less expensive to deploy than telepresence, wasn't the right fit. "Historically, experience with videoconferencing had been, at best, mixed. Issues of quality and ease of use had led to low user adoption," she said. "Telepresence ... is a high-tech way of making technology almost invisible in the context of the conversations it enables."

Beyond its costs, building a large, bandwidth-intensive telepresence network that spans the globe is a complicated endeavor. In each city, the company had to deal with multiple vendors, along with an array of facilities, finance, and installation teams. It also required integration of disparate technology and systems, as well as integration into the work routine of thousands of employees spread out around the world.

Then there was the task of educating users on how to implement the technology and encouraging them to work with it. "To get users to embrace this technology and encourage adoption, we hosted key individual and leader one-on-ones, provided facilitated experiences early with business teams, and held open houses to showcase the technology for the general employee population," says Heltsley.

Procter & Gamble declares that the resources and time invested in its telepresence network were well spent. Over six months, the company avoided more than 6,000 international flights, the equivalent of taking more than 3,000 cars off of the road for an entire year. Moreover, the company says that it has saved millions in travel costs -- and it expects to see more savings as more studios are added and video-enabled collaboration tools become embedded in business practices.

Moreover, Heltsley says that the systems has been a hit with travel-weary employees, freeing up time to be more productive at work, as well enjoy improved work-life balance. The company also reports that the studios have helped to reduce decision-making cycles significantly: Teams can make decisions in minutes instead of days.

Raytheon reaps green success from sowing sustainability seeds

Defense technology company Raytheon has long pursued environmental initiatives. In 1998, the company started setting goals to reduce waste. Several years later, it focused on cutting energy consumption. Last year, the company launched the first phase of a massive, companywide sustainable IT project, affecting its 73,000 employees spread out around the globe among six business units.

Among the company's pilot projects was deploying PC power management software from 1E on more than 4,000 PCs. The effort helps reduce energy waste by powering down machines when they aren't in use.

Additionally, the company launched a server virtualization and consolidation effort for its Windows and Unix environments, as well as for its Oracle and Microsoft database servers. The company reports that more than 685 servers have already been virtualized or consolidated.

On top of that, Raytheon started a printer- and paper-reduction campaign through which more than 3,900 personal printers in the pilot businesses were slated for removal. "These printers were often removed without replacement, because of the existing widespread use of multifunction printing devices on the network," says Maureen O'Donnell, internal controls manager for information solutions at Raytheon's Network Centric Systems business unit.

In addition, the printer default settings were changed to double-sided, secure printing, which significantly reduced paper and ink consumption.

Moreover, Raytheon adopted to new IT practices to reduce its environmental impact. For example, a revised IT-procurement process incorporates energy and recyclability criteria into product-purchase decisions and sustainability criteria into supplier evaluations.

The project focused not only on deploying an array of green technologies but also on driving the necessary cultural change within the Raytheon's six business units to steer employees toward making greener decisions. In fact, the biggest challenge hasn't been so much technological as cultural, says O'Donnell.

In an effort to foster a green mindset among employees, IT partnered with the facilities department to drive a communications campaign via e-mail, site events, and an Energy Citizen Program, which encourages employees to practice energy efficiency at work and at home. "This helped the employee population understand the impact of the IT footprint on Raytheon and how, through simple practices, employees could contribute significantly to the company's sustainability strategy," says O'Donnell.

Demonstrating the value of the green efforts to company leaders, stakeholders, and employees alike has also proven critical, O'Donnell says. To that end, the company has established a foundation for metrics reporting. "Metrics reporting was challenging to establish, but had a great impact on culture change because it created enterprise-wide visibility into the significant gains achieved from the sustainability strategy," she says.

Communication among Raytheon's business units has also proven effective, allowing them to leverage one another's resources and lessons. The company has gone so far as to launch a formal IT-Facilities Green Working Group with representatives from each of the six businesses.

In the first year alone, the company has reaped $11.5 million in savings from its green initiatives and anticipates far more savings in upcoming years at it builds on its green IT strategy. Of this, $2.7 million resulted directly from server-related energy savings. Moreover, Raytheon was able to avoid building a new datacenter, despite a 25 percent growth in capacity demand, a direct result of its virtualization efforts. Another $250,000 in savings came from the progress on desktop power management, while $1.5 million in savings stemmed from printer-related savings. The remaining savings were a result of reducing server lease expenses, facilities footprint costs, and datacenter labor.

From an environmental standpoint, Raytheon was able to meet its seven-year goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent a year early, due to the reductions in energy use.

U.S. Navy enlists virtualization to supercharge sprawling intranet

The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) is the largest purpose-built network in the world. It runs on 40 server farms and is used by more than 707,000 sailors, marines, and civilians in 620 locations in the United States and Japan. Thus, the task of virtualizing the NMCI's underlying server infrastructure -- without disrupting service -- has proven to be an enormous technological challenge. Yet the rewards have been significant, reaping the Navy and Marine Corps better network performance and reliability, significant financial savings, and a reduced impact on the environment.

The task of virtualizing NMCI's network fell to Hewlett-Packard's EDS subsidiary, which has managed the system for the Navy since 2001. EDS has thus far consolidated 2,000 of the Navy's 4,500 x86 servers down to 300, each hosting multiple EMC VMware ESX virtual machines. The servers are Dell PowerEdge R900 blades, designed to host multiple VMs. They boast 32GB of memory, six network connections, and six host bus adapters for storage traffic.

The environmental benefits of the project came as a pleasant surprise to Greg Burke, director of network operations center services for NMCI. "After the first wave of the project, we realized just how significant the environmental impact of virtualization was," he says. "Not only were we reducing our footprint by purchasing fewer pieces of equipment for hardware refresh -- resulting in less hardware waste -- but we were also using significantly less power and cooling energy for the server farms."

When the project is complete, it is expected to achieve a 9-to-1 consolidation of servers, saving the military an estimated $1.6 million per year in power and cooling costs, a reduction of more than 65 percent. Moreover, the organization will avoid spending $1 million on new machines when it comes time to refresh its gear. Additionally, the Navy expects to save 40 to 70 percent of its server farm floor space. From an environmental standpoint, the virtualization project has reduced the Navy's carbon emissions by 6,800 tons, the equivalent of taking 2,550 cars off the road, and the Navy expects that number will reach 7,466 tons of CO2 by the time the project is complete.

In addition to servers, the project has focused on virtualizing applications, such as printing, Microsoft Exchange, anti-virus software, and other customer-facing apps.

NMCI uses Distributed Resource Schedule (DRS) to monitor server utilization and optimize application resources. Additionally, if a server fails, the VMs are quickly moved to another server. According to the Navy, this project boosted efficiency and reduced downtime by 50 percent, thus boosting user satisfaction.

Previously, the network leveraged Windows clustering to move app services from one copy of the OS to another. Now, using Vizioncore's vRanger, the network boots new VMs out of storage, a more efficient approach.

Driving a virtualization project of this magnitude is a challenging endeavor, notes Burke. "We did extensive planning -- working with VMware -- before we undertook the effort as to what applications and servers made the most sense to virtualize," he said. "But even with extensive planning, testing and strategizing, there are still things that you cannot anticipate, especially considering the size and scope of NMCI."

The most challenging aspect of going virtual: Ensuring there are adequate resources, including a healthy back-end storage environment, to satisfy the high demand of Navy applications.

U.S. Postal Service taps optimization software to slash transportation costs

Gas prices more or less doubled between 2003 and 2008, spurring organizations throughout the country to find ways to reduce fuel consumption. Among them is the United States Postal Service (USPS), which has harnessed the power of IT to substantially reduce fuel costs, along with associated greenhouse gas emissions, and overall transportation expenses.

The USPS announced last year its success in cutting annual transportation costs by more than $5 million. The decrease in transportation has resulted in reducing fuel consumption by 615,000 gallons per year. What made this possible is a transportation-optimization system called HCAP (Highway Corridor Analytic Program), developed by the USPS and IBM using Ilog Cplex optimization software.

HCAP determines the most efficient plan for using existing mail-transportation assets in various types of scenarios, such as bulk-mail delivery and planning for holiday peak volumes, weekend transportation, and along highway corridors. It accounts for parameters such as starting and ending points, delivery times, truck-capacity restrictions, and mail classes. The system analyzes existing scenarios then generates alternative loads and routes that would save USPS money but still meet all of its service goals (such as getting that first-class letter from Boston to Washington, D.C., within two days), says E.J. Matto, an associate partner at IBM.

So, hypothetically, the system might find that USPS needs three fewer trucks driving from Chicago to Phoenix on a given daily run, or that 12 routes in Northern California could be consolidated into seven.

The savings USPS has enjoyed are indeed notable. In the Midwest, the organization was able to consolidate transportation, resulting in annual savings of $1.3 million. Savings on the West Coast were even more substantial: Transportation reductions resulted in a savings of $3.7 million per year.

The savings have also resulted in a reduction in CO2 emissions. All told, USPS reported a carbon dioxide savings of 6,350 tons. If those reductions could be converted into bankable cash, the value of offsetting those CO2 emissions would be $47,000 per year.

Ted Samson is a senior analyst and author of the Sustainable IT blog, tracking trends toward greener, more energy-efficient IT. Subscribe to his free Green Tech newsletter.

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