Perspectives from Intel IT Sustainability Program Office – HAPPY EARTH DAY!

In some of my other blogs you may have read, I have talked about the Intel IT Sustainability Program Office and some of the work that Intel IT is doing to lower our carbon footprint. In honor of Earth Day 2011, I asked my colleague Bill, Program Manager for IT Sustainability to give his perspective on Intel IT Sustainability and where we are finding energy savings and where our investments have paid off. Below are Bill’s thoughts! HAPPY EARTH DAY!


What is your footprint... As an, individual, I have a house, yard, drive to work every day, recycle as much as we can, a hybrid, that vehicle for the heavier lifting, recycle as much as we can etc. would love to put solar panels on the roof.. kids of collage age is deferring that  investment so far. I think I am balanced, managing our footprint, strive to do more.

For an IT organization what is it's footprint and how do we change it, what else can IT do to improve the corporations footprint. A couple of years ago Intel IT took a strategic step and established an IT Sustainability Program office. I get asked frequently how is it going, my first thought is great we have been hitting our goals,  getting the organization engaged, decreased our footprint 10% .

We started with defining  just what an IT Sustainability footprint is, Co2?, electricity?, water? , waste? etc and where do we have leverage. The corporation already had mature processes and a culture for reuse recycle and conservation. As we looked closer we concluded electricity and it's associated co2 emissions is IT's biggest opportunity.

The 1st bump in the road was measuring the footprint and sensing change, it was pretty easy to do some back of the envelope calculations of our footprint but we needed to  sense change in standard way, we have very few metering systems to isolate IT consumption, tens of thousands of assets distributed with no way of measuring their actual energy  consumption. What we do have is an IT inventory data base tracking assets and their locations.  We developed a model using the inventory data to estimate an assets energy usage, ie power x hours in a year x percent on etc. sum it up and bingo an estimate of energy usage, which correlated pretty well with what meters we do have, as the inventory changes we sense energy change.

Servers are our highest energy consumers , followed by DC facilities overhead, network and storage, a surprise was desktops and Laptops being less than common perception. Their power draw per system is lower tends to have some power management, and  for laptops users have a natural incentive to turn off conserving battery life. With the model we are able to estimate change nicely for our environment.

As with most IT organizations ours is constantly focusing on satisfying our customers needs and improving our efficiency, balancing cost with performance..  Over the past two years our efficiency goals have been aligning nicely with Sustainability.  Server refresh, network port consolidation , server virtualization all are having the net effect of  reducing our energy footprint, avoiding construction of new data centers, while increasing our computing capacity.  With few new Data Centers being built, we had less opportunity to design in energy efficiency. The Data center engineering team started looking at low cost retrofit opportunities, such as tile management, blanking panels and hot aisle cold aisle  containment work, variable speed fan retrofits etc..  Adding up to 10% improvement over two years.

Now to my second thought, how is it going… there is so much more opportunity, how can we apply IT better to enable human behavior, manage buildings consumption, the supply chain , other  potential  applications of IT capabilities. Where is the innovation going to come from, technology efficiencies will keep coming  we will continue to see power improvements servers , storage, clients, network etc, need to adopt within business environment boundary conditions. We need some breakthroughs in applying IT outside IT's 4 walls, breakthroughs in valuing and financing energy efficiency work , I hear there is pay back on those solar panels I want, I just can't write the check. Building engineers and IT experts work in different circles so may not see breakthroughs by applying their combined skills.

What  worries me,  Jevons Paradox (which I just learned of recently), with increased efficiency in using  a resource the consumption tends to increase. I remember  a factory manager twenty years ago saying "I am not going to give automation any more Ethernet, they'll  just use it all, and ask for more". Is there a killer app on the way that everyone has to have ..needing much more compute capacity, out pacing Moore's law.  We all start talking to our computers Star Trek style, cpu's reading our  thoughts, hopefully running at just a few watts.