Power Savings Benefit IT

Mar 24, 2006

Jerry Hodgen

Over the course of the past few months, my colleagues in the facilities section must have worn out at least two pairs of shoes traipsing up to my office to complain about the high cost of energy and how my data center and the user PCs are torpedoing their budget. My counterpart in facilities and I certainly were on a collision course because my objective is to keep all of the desktop PCs turned on so my team can effectively manage the desktop environment.

However, in the interest of saving shoe leather and promoting inter-departmental harmony I decided to look into the situation. After all, I am a good "corporate citizen" and do believe in cutting costs when it makes business sense.

Assess the Potential

I had, in fact, implemented some energy saving initiatives a couple of years ago by ensuring automatic sleep mode was configured for monitors and CPUs. Most recently, I changed the corporate standard for monitors to energy efficient flat panels.

I decided to take this one step further to determine if there was a better way to manage the power consumption of the desktops, so I went to my friendly search engine and keyed in "PC Power Management". The first thing that popped up was a one liner advising me that I could save $15 to $30 annually per PC. In a split second I calculated a potential savings of about $300,000 for my environment. Not a huge chunk of change in the grand scheme things, but definitely enough to catch the eye of the skinflint down in the corner office. And it was about that time for an annual salary review, not that I had an ulterior motive.

Determine Feasibility

Further investigation revealed the product being touted was Verdiem's Surveyor, which is a power management product for Windows PCs that are networked. The system gives one the ability to manage the power state of all networked PCs that are Wake-on-LAN compliant. Well, that sounds good I thought, but I bet all the cost savings will be eaten up by the resources required to get the client installed on PCs all over the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

Well, after reading a little bit further I determined that I could either use login scripts or my CA Unicenter Software deployment tool to install the client very easily. Being the skeptical person I am, I imagined the client would be so heavy that I would clobber the network by pushing it down to the desktops regardless of what method I used. Wrong again, the client footprint is only 1MB, much less than the infamous Microsoft security patches I push out on a regular basis.

Infrastructure Impact

Now I am beginning to think this product may have some merit, but the server and data base requirements might diminish its feasibility. Wrong again, this product can support up to 50,000 clients on one server.

Surveyor uses Microsoft SQL server as its database management system and supports both versions of MS SQL server. The product comes with a runtime version of Microsoft Desktop Engine 2000 (MSDE). If one chooses to go this route than a server would be required for each 5000 clients.

Business Case for IT

After researching Surveyor more thoroughly I determined that there was a real tangible value in being able to manage and control the power state of the PCs on my network, on demand and at my discretion. Specifically, even though my team and I consistently communicate patching and software updates well ahead of time and up to and including the day a software update or patch is deployed, over 35% of the user community ignores the direction to keep their PCs turned on.

This 35% results in over 300 man-hours being expended to get these PCs patched. If I had a way to turn these PCs on without the user's intervention, I stood to save 300 man-hours per month. In dollars and cents this would translate to over $100,000 per year in savings. This would certainly be another arrow in my quiver, particularly in managing my desktops as I described this time last year in "Is Effective Desktop Management Possible?"

I also thought about those situations when virus despite the strongest of warnings to the PC user, they would put an infected PC back on the network before it was repaired and patched. Based on what I read about Surveyor, I would be able to nip this problem in the bud by simply issuing a command to automatically shut that PC down and any other machine that may be causing the network grief.

From an IT perspective, the Surveyor's benefits are equivalent to or exceed the energy savings for which it was designed. This being the case, it is going to be very easy for me to put my diplomatic hat on and make peace with my counterpart over at the facilities section. After all, there is no reason he has to know there was a benefit to IT.

Now, I must confess to having an ulterior motive. I am sure that after the corner office dweller factors this into his cost savings for the year, it will add to his incentive bonus, and just maybe, he will remember that when reviewing my compensation

Jerry Hodgen is a technology infrastructure manager who has been delivering cutting-edge network solutions for over two decades. Hodgen has designed and implemented technology solutions for Fortune 100 companies at global locations ranging from the deserts of the Middle East to the jungles of Asia.

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