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IT Trends | Research

Green IT Practices Drive Cost Savings in K-12 Sector

Server consolidation, cooling technologies, and expanded use of virtualization are helping to drive down costs in K-12 IT operations, according to a new report released Monday.

The report, "2012 Energy Efficient IT Report," released this week by CDW Government, found that energy efficiency is having an impact on costs in K-12 IT operations. Among K-12 education IT leaders surveyed for the study, 72 percent reported that green initiatives in their organizations have led to at least a 1 percent cost savings in their data center operations.

Keys to Energy Savings
The most widely adopted technologies leading to data center savings included server consolidation, virtualized servers and virtualized storage, and more energy-efficient processors in newer hardware. But the technology cited by K-12 IT respondents in the survey as most likely to offer savings were new approaches to cooling IT systems. Sixty-five percent of respondents in K-12 reported they are currently experiencing savings with new cooling approaches.

Sixty-four percent of K-12 IT leaders surveyed also agreed that cloud computing is an energy-efficient approach to data center consolidation, up 17 points from the previous year's survey.

On average, 30 percent of data center purchases in K-12 over the last three months were considered "green" by the report's authors.

Across all sectors considered in the survey (private business, federal government, state and local government, higher education, and K-12), 43 percent of respondents reported that green initiatives within their organizations were driving data center consolidation--up nine points from the previous year's survey.

When asked how much individual technologies have reduced power demand or consumption for their organizations, IT leaders across all sectors reported that virtualization had accounted for, on average, 28 percent of savings, followed by new approaches to cooling at 22 percent, energy-efficient UPS systems at 21 percent, and server consolidation at 20 percent (tied with Energy Star-rated devices).

Other cross-sector findings included:

  • Most (54 percent) of respondents have implemented or are developing plans for managing power demand or consumption in their data centers;
  • Three-quarters of those with programs to manage data center power demand have actually reduced energy expenditures in those data centers; and
  • 17 percent of respondents said increased use of hosted services is reducing energy consumption for them.

"Like any other aspect of IT, energy efficiency in the data center is a multi-layer stack of solutions working together, and all available solutions deserve consideration. The combination that makes the most sense will vary with the unique environment in a data center," said Norm Lillis, vice president, systems solutions, at CDW, in a statement released to coincide with the report. "CDW-G's Solution Ratings Maps are a reflection of how we work every day with customers to help them identify the best solutions for their objectives. They can facilitate IT's conversations with upper management about energy efficiency and data center optimization strategies."

Roadblocks and Recommendations
Significantly, across all sectors, just 52 percent of IT leaders reported that their organizations have called on the IT department to reduce energy costs, and only 42 percent of IT leaders have incentives in place to reduce energy costs, according to the study.

However, the top roadblock to greater efficiencies, according to the report, was a lack of budget for investing in newer, more efficient systems (cited by 56 percent of respondents).

Other barriers included:

  • Leaders focusing investments in other areas of the organization (50 percent);
  • Lack of means to measure energy use in IT (46 percent);
  • Inattention to IT energy expenses (43 percent); and
  • Lack of knowledge of "all of the things we could do to improve our energy efficiency" (42 percent).

Just 8 percent of respondents said it's "easy" to estimate energy use or savings based on manufacturer specifications.

IT leaders cited three tools they'd like to have available to them to help measure energy use and identify savings:

  1. An objective assessment system and cost/benefit analysis (64 percent);
  2. "A clear set of industry standards for what constitutes energy-efficient IT equipment in the data center" (61 percent); and
  3. The ability to identify energy-efficient equipment more easily.

The report also made several recommendations for IT organizations looking for additional cost savings through energy efficiency in the data center:

  • Implement software to track current energy use;
  • Involve senior executives in planning by sharing savings projections to help get them on board with green initiatives;
  • Prepare for the move to the cloud with "building blocks" like server virtualization; and
  • Use the "Solution Savings Ratings Map" tools in the report to inform future IT purchases and compare savings with savings across sectors.

The survey for the "2012 Energy Efficient IT Report" was conducted by O'Keeffe & Co. for CDW-G. It involved online interviews with hundreds of organizations across sectors, including 304 K-12 school districts and higher education institutions. There is a margin of error of ±3.5 percent for cross-sector results and ±7.9 percent for results covering education specifically.

The complete report, "2012 Energy Efficient IT Report," is available as free download with registration through CDW-G's site.

About the Author

Executive Producer David Nagel heads up the editorial department for 1105 Media's education publications — which include two daily sites, a variety of newsletters and two monthly digital magazines covering technology in both K-12 and higher education.

A 21-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192 or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education). A selection of David Nagel's articles can be found on this site.


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