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Indiana School District Saves Big with Computing Device Plug Management

School City of Hammond, a school district in Indiana with an annual utility bill of more than $3.5 million annually, has gone public with its use of software to manage the energy usage of its computing devices. Implemented in March 2013, JouleX is expected to save the district $31,500 in its first year.

Initially, JouleX had developed JouleX Energy Manager, an "agentless" energy management system that measures the energy consumption and utilization of all IP-connected devices and systems. The reporting produced by the software-as-a-service gives visibility into power usage across the enterprise for those devices.

The company was acquired by Cisco Systems in May 2013 for $107 million. After the acquisition Cisco combined the energy management capabilities of JouleX into its own EnergyWise to set up a service called Cisco Joulex EnergyWise. Cisco reported recently that the EnergyWise technology manages more than six million Cisco ports.

According to Mark Hennessee, the energy manager at Hammond, the district began experimenting with EnergyWise in March 2013, before it became a Cisco product. The district has 22 facilities and a little more than three million square feet in sites located all over the city.

"I can remember starting here 25 years ago and walking into a classroom and there were two plugs in the classroom — one in the front and one in the back — for a film projector or a phonograph," Hennessee recalled. Now, he noted, teachers have computers, interactive whiteboards, classroom workstations, and some classrooms have been converted to PC labs with 30 machines being used constantly throughout the day.

"How can we get a handle on everything that's in our building and not disrupt that educational process?" he asked. "We want to save energy. The easiest thing to do is just shut it off. But when those kids are there to learn, we have to have that stuff on. We can buy the most efficient pieces of equipment, but if we don't use it effectively, we're wasting energy. That led us to looking for a solution. We came up JouleX."

The service goes out to check the power status of devices. At Hammond it was discovering as many as 1,800 devices left powered on after hours during the school week, and 1,200 devices left on during the weekends. The service then turns off the power to the device; however, added Hennessee, EnergyWise is used as a "safety net." The district has set "cautious policies" to ensure that the equipment will be available when members of the district community need it. Now, he said, "I save a megawatt every night and a dollar value of a $100 to $125 a night realistically."

The district is consuming 35 percent less power in that one aspect of its operations and is projecting an annual savings of $31,500. It also was able to take advantage of a local utility provider's customer incentive program and expects to show a savings of 147,000 kilowatt hours, which will result in a $10,500 incentive check.

"It's also given me a window into our IT infrastructure as to what our power consumption is with that," Hennessee added. That includes being able to identify which models of computers and monitors are the most energy efficient and work with IT on selecting those when legacy equipment is replaced.

Hennessee said Hammond is on target to have a one-year payback or less for its three-year subscription to EnergyWise. In the future, the district expects to put switches and possibly the IP telephony system devices onto the service.

"EnergyWise has given us a great deal of visibility and shown us that energy management can be done easily and seamlessly to deliver a significant return on investment in both reducing our carbon footprint and cutting costs," he said. "After using the solution... I can't think of anything it doesn't do to help monitor, analyze, and reduce energy consumption."

EnergyWise follows two pricing models, one based on endpoints monitored and managed; and the other intended for data center environments, which tend to be virtualized. In that case, pricing is based on the size of the data center and how much energy capacity it has.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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