Jan 08 2009

The Path to Green

As the government crafts broader metrics and benchmarks, consider energy-efficiency steps your IT shop can take now.

Green is the new black — at least in the federal government.

But unlike restocking your wardrobe to be in step with the latest fashion trends, greening your IT need not immediately be an exercise in buying new gear.

As the incoming administration, the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency continue to evolve a governmentwide energy policy framework and come to a consensus on what are acceptable data center energy usage parameters, here are some things agency tech teams can tackle right now to identify ways to make their systems infrastructures more energy efficient — and also more manageable:

    • Develop an agencywide IT policy that defines what it means to be green within your organization.
    • Assess where IT can have the most impact on the carbon footprint and at what cost.
    • Establish a policy and process for assessing ongoing architectural choices and criteria for environmental assessments of projects.
    • Assess the IT organization, supply chain, products and services, and the infrastructure in terms of environmental impact.
    • Assess the environmental performance of the organization through benchmarking. Use pilots to establish a quantitative baseline and establish a culture of measurement. Include metrics that cover a range of issues, such as energy efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions, waste management, materials efficiency and supplier management.
    • Develop a detailed plan for improving environmental efficiency — including the supporting infrastructure (data centers, servers, networks, client devices and printing).
    • Analyze and craft a plan for reducing and managing waste, including lifecycle disposition of PCs and servers. (If you have such a plan already, revisit it and make sure it’s still relevant.)
    • Continue to scan and analyze alternative sources of energy that promote long-term sustainability.
    • Establish procurement guidelines that include buying criteria based on workable green standards. Vet all would-be vendors’ supply chains for eco-friendliness as part of the evaluation process.
    • Weigh proposals against a standardized asset lifecycle to ensure total energy and carbon costs are measured. Plan to progress from applying these measurements to hardware procurements to using them for software and services buys, too.
    • Prioritize your green plan among immediate, midterm and long-term opportunities and actions, measuring for continuous environmental improvement.