Green computing initiatives for small to medium sized organizations.
Green computing initiatives for small to medium sized organizations are just as important as those for large corporations. Taking steps to minimize energy consumption and the global impact of e-waste will benefit both the company and the environment. By utilizing specific design practices, it is possible to maximize energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption up to 67%. In addition to data center design, an organization can utilize green practices within the office to save energy and costs and reduce the environmental impact of an organization's computing technology. ENERGY STAR rated PCs and monitors have the potential to provide a considerable annual savings in small firms. As equipment becomes outdated, organizations must consider disposal alternatives. There are several recycling programs that provide the valuable service of taking old equipment and disposing of it properly. Programs like the DELL Reconnect program work in conjunction with Goodwill Industries to recycle and reuse out-dated computer equipment. When generating a plan for implementing green initiatives it is imperative that the goals be specific and the time is spent to analyze progress. As the green computing initiatives come closer to fruition, companies must be certain to have the buy-in at an organizational level. This will promote the unified participation necessary to achieve consistent green computing practices.

Keywords: Green Computing, IT Cost Control, Environmental Protection

Article Type:
Green design (Evaluation)
Energy efficiency (Evaluation)
Mamaghani, Farrokh
Pub Date:
Name: European Journal of Management Publisher: International Academy of Business and Economics Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business, international Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 International Academy of Business and Economics ISSN: 1555-4015
Date: Winter, 2011 Source Volume: 11 Source Issue: 4
Event Code: 200 Management dynamics Canadian Subject Form: Data centres Computer Subject: Company business management
Geographic Scope: Europe Geographic Code: 4E Europe
Accession Number:
Full Text:

More and more small and medium size companies worldwide have opened their eyes to the potential benefits of "Going Green." However, what does it mean to go green for companies and their IT organizations? Green IT/Green computing can be defined as "the study and practice of designing, manufacturing, using, and disposing of computers, servers, and associated subsystems--such as monitors, printers, storage devices, and networking and communications systems--efficiently and effectively with minimal or no impact on the environment." (Murugesan, 2008). Knowing what is involved, it is easy to become overwhelmed with ideas when presented with such a broad spectrum of green initiatives. Throughout this paper, we will focus on the benefits of green computing for those organizations with less than 500 employees.

A company that utilizes ENERGY STAR rated LCD monitors with sleep settings activated, over the course of four years, saves an estimated $42,445 versus a company that is still utilizing conventional LCD monitors ( In addition to the monetary savings, green computing has an immediate and lasting positive impact on our environment. Green computing lessons our reliance on the earth's natural resources and it also has the ability to reduce dangerous green house carbon emissions. With a well thought out implementation plan, it is possible to take gradual steps towards an eco-friendly, functional business model. It is important however to realize, that a company new to green computing should plan on implementing ideas in stages and measure results over time. This paper will cover methods and recommendations for green computing and the appropriate metrics to measure progress.


There are many design alternatives when considering existing data center or planning a new one. One of the largest cost concerns for any data center is energy consumption. These concerns are generated from the electricity necessary to power hardware which includes storage devices and servers as well as the energy utilized to keep the data center at a consistent temperature. Knowing these concerns leads to the first data center design consideration which is energy efficient methods of cooling the data center. A good place to start is a floor plan that will allow for greater air flow through a data center.

2.1 Hot Aisle/Cold Aisle Data Center Layout

This particular layout requires servers to be set on a raised floor with perforated floor tiles. It is common for a server to be designed with the intake on the front of the unit. This design requires placing rows of cabinets so that the fronts or intakes faced each other thus creating the cold aisle. The cold aisle is also where perforated floor tiles are placed. By placing the exhaust end of the cabinets towards each other a hot aisle has been created. At the end of hot aisles, floor cooling units would be utilized to force cooler air back through the perforated floor thus reducing the amount of preheated air that is being introduced to the server.

2.2 The Containment System

The hot aisle/cold aisle design could be improved using containment curtains. The containment curtains allow for maximization of the cold aisle by containing the existing cool air and minimizing the amount of preheated air that enters the cold aisle. One example of a cold air containment system is the AirBlock[TM] containment systems. This containment system set up is noted as having the potential to save energy on air conditioning by as much as 15%. ( For a successful hot aisle/cold aisle design it is essential to consider a front-to-back air flow pattern.

2.3 Cable Management

In conjunction with the hot aisle/cold aisle design, cable management is a second design consideration that may help reduce energy costs. According to the U.S Department of Energy (Best Practices Guide for Energy-Efficient Data Center Design, 2011) cable congestion in raised-floor plenums can sharply reduce the total airflow as well as degrade the airflow distribution through the perforated floor tiles. In addition to the issues with raised-floor plenums, it is important to realize that cables act as insulation. If left to hang loosely over the back of the rack the cables will essentially be trapping the hot air exhaust within the unit. This will require greater energy to cool the data center resulting in higher energy costs. Therefore, whenever possible cables should be routed through the hot aisle. The goal is to minimize the amount of obstructions that interfere with the cool air flow through the perforated floor tiles in the cold aisle.

To facilitate this process, there are several cable containment options available today. If an organization is considering new server cabinets then it is recommended to purchase a unit that provides a built in cable management system. There are also companies such as Panduit that offer cable management rack systems that may retrofit to current cabinets. Another method for aiding in the reduction of cable congestion is to bring the necessary power supplies closer to the unit. This will reduce the amount of cable running through the data center.

2.4 Economizer

A third energy saving design consideration is the implementation of an economizer. There are two data center economizer options. The first option is an air-side economizer. With an air-side economizer, outside air is brought into the data center and distributed throughout servers via sensors and ducts. Unlike a traditional data center cooling set up where air is re-circulated and cooled, an air-side economizer expels the warm air outside that can be used to heat office spaces. In the event the outside air temperature is too hot or too cold, the economizer is able to heat or cool the air as necessary to maintain the data center inlet temperatures. In a 2008 study conducted by Intel IT department, the use of an air-side economizer would result in an estimated annual cost reduction of approximately $143,000 for a small 500-KW data center, based on electricity costs of 0.08 per KWH.

( Data Center Cost with an Air Economizer.pdf)

If considering the implementation of an air-side economizer it is important to investigate the appropriate means for monitoring and controlling humidity levels and air particle filtration.

The second economizer option to consider is a water-side economizer. With a water-side economizer there are no major changes to internal area of the data center. A "water-side economizer uses the evaporative cooling capacity of a cooling tower to produce chilled water that can be used instead of the chiller during the winter months"

( mgt.datacenter efficiency economizer waterside).

When a data center's warm water is routed to the water-side economizer, it meets the cooled water and the heat is then evaporated through a dry cooler or evaporative tower. Water-side economizers are recommended for climates that experience temperatures at or below 55[degrees]F for at least 3,000 hours a year and may be best suited for companies that are currently equipped with water or air-cooled chilled water systems. One immediate benefit to the water-side economizer is the absence of outside elements such as humidity and air particles being introduced into the data center.


Hardware plays a major role in a data center energy use and heat generation. One hardware consideration is to make certain that the center is utilizing existing equipment to its potential. One common issue in a data center is not utilizing existing servers to their potential. For example, if an organization is running ten servers at utilization rates of 15% there is a significant waste of energy compared to other servers running at 85% capacity. One option to address low server utilization is server virtualization.

3.1 Server Virtualization

Virtualization is a means of utilizing multiple independent virtual operating systems on a single physical server component. By putting virtualized server operations into one physical component the level of CPU utilization will be increased. This process will therefore reduce the number of server required and amount of physical space that is occupied as well as utilizing a fraction of the energy to operate them. Basically, a company will achieve similar results from a virtualized server as they would with several independent servers. It saves money by reducing energy consumption, the need for additional employee operators, and it lowers cooling costs. All of these factors equate to lessoning a company's carbon footprint.

3.2 Cloud Storage Technology

A second option to consider when planning energy reducing practices in an organization is to use cloud storage technology. Cloud storage is the means of storing data on a network of online servers versus storing data on a dedicated storage server. There are several benefits to cloud storage. First, the organization only pays for what it uses. This alleviates the concern of scalability. Second, cloud storage reduces the amount of hardware in a data center therefore reducing energy costs. One final benefit of cloud storage is information accessibility. With cloud storage it is possible to retrieve data from remote locations where there is an Internet connection.

A common concern with cloud storage is data security. Any time data are transmitted over the Internet there is risk of having data compromised by hackers and other computer crimes. This is a concern that each company must address and decide if the risk reward ratio provides a comfort level that permits the use of cloud storage. One additional storage consideration is the implementation of thin provisioning. This practice provides storage to applications from a common pool that is used on an as needed basis. Like the previous examples, utilizing thin provisioning will reduce the amount of wasted storage and the need for additional storage devices. This will decrease data center energy consumption. According to Dell, if a company was to utilize Dell's thin provisioning "Dynamic Capacity[TM]" software, a company could reduce the capacity needed to store existing data up to 40%.


One final consolidation consideration is with a server's supplied power supply. Those data centers that are not utilizing a power supply that was configured specifically to their data center design; there is a good chance that a lot of energy is wasted. With available technology today it is possible to run a server power supply with a 95% efficiency rating. This technology results in considerable savings. Using higher efficiency power supplies will have a direct impact on a data center's energy consumption. The Best Practices Guide for Energy-Efficient Data Center Design report states that at $0.12/kWh, savings of $2,000 to $6,000 per year per rack (10 kW to 25 kW, respectively) are possible just from improving the power supply efficiency from 75% to 85%.


For the purpose of this section of the paper, the focus will be on three main areas of opportunity for making an organization's office space more environmentally friendly. Going green begins with the paper supply. According the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average office worker in the US uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year

( 10,000 sheets of paper equal two cases of copy paper per employee per year. The average cost of a case of paper at local supply stores is over $40. This translates to over $40,000 annual paper cost for an organization with 500 employees. This dollar amount does not include the cost of printer, printer maintenance, ink, and paper disposal. There are tremendous savings to be made by implementing paperless initiatives. The goal is to keep any documentation that started out in an electronic format in an electronic format as long as possible. If a documents start with a physical copy, that is to be viewed by several individuals, it is recommended that the document be scanned to generate a PDF file that can be sent via email or accessed from a cloud storage system. For offices that provide paper invoices, it may be prudent to consider offering customers a paperless option. A paperless billing option will reduce the amount of energy a company spends on generating, packing and shipping invoices and will offer the convenience of an online bill paying option for clients.

One important thought to keep in mind when trying to implement paperless initiatives is that it is imperative that the organization have buy-in from the top level executives to the lower level staff. There must also be awareness that the paperless process takes time and patience. It will not happen overnight. Next, is utilizing ENERGY STAR rated monitors and PCs. As stated previously, a company that utilizes 500 ENERGY STAR rated LCD monitors with sleep settings activated saves an estimated $42,445 over the course of four years versus a company that is still utilizing conventional LCD monitors (Van Geet, 2011). Moreover, utilizing ENERGY STAR rated PC's will result an additional savings of over $28,000 over four year period (Van Geet, 2011). This will save a small organization an estimated $18,000 in energy cost per year. In addition to monetary savings, the environmental savings equates to a CO2 reduction of 1,112,923 pounds or the planting of 115.76 acres of forest. In addition to operating a company with ENERGY STAR rated workstations, it is important to stress to employees the importance of turning off their workstations when not in use. The use of power strips will further reduce energy consumption.

In addition to the paperless initiatives and the use of ENERGY STAR rated PCs and monitors, simple changes such as installing switch plate occupancy sensors in an office that only turns on lights on when someone is in the room is another effective means of lowering energy costs. To further maximize savings on office lighting it is recommended that ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent lamps (CFLS) are installed in any feasible location. CFLS cost about 75% less to operate, and last about 10 times longer.


The 2009 federal stimulus bill contained approximately $50 billion in funding to promote clean energy. Among the incentives are tax deductions for businesses that can cut their building's energy consumption by 50 percent.


In order for any green initiative to be proven successful it is important to monitor progress. A company should document the baseline energy consumption then monitor progress during and after initiatives. This can be accomplished by participating in qualitative and quantitative analysis and by performing periodic audits on the equipment.

One example of a quantitative analysis would be to conduct a Usage Profile review. This review would allow companies to look at the ebb and flow of power consumption. A second recommendation would be to conduct performance comparisons with companies of comparable size and service. It is always good practice to see where an organization stand in the effectiveness of green initiatives within their industry. It is also recommended that companies take the opportunity to gather feedback from employees. Often employees are the individuals that are directly impacted by the green initiatives. To keep green initiatives alive and effective, continue to solicit feedback and ideas from employees to further their buy in to your efforts.

5.1 Power Usage Effectiveness and Data Center Efficiency

Two metrics have recently been introduced that help measure data center efficiency: Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and Data Center Efficiency (DCE). PUE is defined as:

PUE = Total facility Power / IT Equipment Power

Whereas DCE is defined as:

DCE = IT Equipment Power / Total Facility Power

These metrics can be used to illustrate how energy is being used in a data center. For example, a PUE 4.0 means that the data center demand is three times greater than the energy needed to power IT equipment. Moreover, these numbers can be used to calculate how much power a new piece of equipment will need from the power grid. For instance, if a new server demands 250 watts of power to run, and that multiplier is 4.0, it means that the utility grid will need to deliver 1000 watts to run this server. DCE is probably even more useful. Using the same example of a 4.0 PUE, the DCE equivalent is .25. Therefore, IT equipment consumes 25 percent of the power in the data center and 75 percent of power is used for cooling systems, lights, etc.

Total facility power is the power as it is measured at the meter for a data center. IT equipment power is defined as the power needed to manage, process, store, or route data within the data center. The PUE can range from 1.0 to infinity. A lower PUE means that most power consumption is for running IT equipment. In the best case, a PUE reaching 1.0 would show 100 percent effectiveness of data center's power usage . Currently, most data centers are in 3.0 and higher range, but properly designed data center can achive a PUE of 1.6.


Once computing devices such as PC's, monitors and printers reach the end of their serviceable lifespan, companies are left with the daunting task of how to dispose of the equipment. Computers contain several hazardous materials like lead, mercury cadmium and PVC that pose risks to the environment. One option for PC disposal is to utilize an online auction or classifieds site to re-sale old equipment. Depending on the amount of equipment and what type of secure information exists on the hard drive, this may not be a realistic means for a company to generate extra money. A second option is to participate in recycling program like the Dell Reconnect program.

The Reconnect program is a partnership with Goodwill Industries. The Reconnect program will take almost any computer or computer related piece of equipment and recycle it for free. This particular option has several benefits. It is a free service, hazardous material do not end up in landfills and the organization is supporting a respected not-for-profit organization in Goodwill Industries. If the Reconnect program is not available in your area, you can visit the Earth 911 website which will provide resources and recommendations for community centered recycling programs.


The size of an organization should not dictate the efforts to implement green initiatives. It is possible for an organization to realize great energy and cost savings by implementing data center designs like the hot aisle/cold aisle configuration or by utilizing ENERGY STAR rated PCs, monitors, and light fixtures. When setting up green initiatives it is important to remember to set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound (SMART) goals. This will aid in maintaining the company focus. With an organized plan that is accepted by all parties in the organization, a company can find success with green initiatives. It will be important to monitor and analyze progress and to participate in periodic reviews of the green initiatives to insure that they are on track with the original organizational plan. Periodic reviews will also provide an opportunity to recognize areas of actions. In every new organizational effort it is possible to experience resistance, however, it is important to maintain the perspective that every effort helps in reducing negative impact on the environment and reducing energy consumption and costs.

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Farrokh Mamaghani, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, New York, USA
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