Reasons to Consider Power Management in Your Enterprise

- June 22nd, 2010

 

Chris Andrew, VP of Security Technologies for Lumension, shares his thoughts on power management considerations.

What are some best practices to implementing PC power management in midsize and large enterprises?

The average computer is left on all the time in a business environment, and that can waste a tremendous amount of power when you factor in the number of desktop PCs within an organization. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average desktop PC wastes nearly half the power it consumes. Just by turning endpoints off when they’re not being used, organizations can save two-thirds of their power consumption. That is, the units will only be on for eight business hours every workday instead of 24x7x365. Yet, the EPA found that 90 percent of desktops within American businesses today currently do not utilize power management settings.

Organizations should establish an aggressive power management policy that mandates that all desktops and laptops be turned off when not in use. For example, the policy could force desktops into hibernate or sleep state when they’ve been idle for 30 to 60 minutes. Enterprises can use power management software to implement this policy. Such a policy can be deployed by using a policy wizard for local management policy, or using a group policy object for a large Active Directory user base, for example. The U.S. government’s Energy Star site offers a solution for creating group policy objects to set power policies across all users (Google EZGPO).

These policies should be combined with Wake-on-LAN, that allows a computer to be woken up on demand by a UDP broadcast network packet. Organizations will also likely want to employ Distributed Wake-on-LAN if they are managing dispersed systems in remote branch offices, etc. The ability to wake up computers is important to ensure manageability, such as applying security updates, patches and antiVirus updates as needed. A side benefit of this approach is that organizations can guarantee that all endpoints are secure without interrupting employees with mundane system management tasks during business hours.

Ideally, enterprises should also look to replace outdated computers and monitors with energy-efficient ones. When making these purchases, be sure to choose Energy Star-rated PCs and replace CRT monitors with LCD flat screens. Enterprises should also consolidate their power-hungry servers. The EPA has found that servers lose approximately one-third of their power as heat. To compound the problem, organizations are forced to use A/C to cool down data centers – which consumes even more energy. One best practice for reducing power consumption is to use virtualization software, such as VMware. Some organizations turn off non-critical servers during non-business hours. However, you need to be careful when taking this approach, typically mission-critical infrastructure such as email, file and application servers can’t just be down just because no one is in the office.

In a recent presentation from Lumension Connect, we asked the poll question: Has your organization looked at local power company energy rebates for PC power management? And 84 percent said they are not aware of the programs. What are the initial thoughts on the results?

These results make sense. When we first started exploring the issue of power management, we assumed a large number of our customers were already managing power in some way. But clearly power management adoption is still in the early adopter phase. Power companies across the U.S. are currently still offering rebates and incentives – they’re collecting tariffs from customers and handing the money collected out to those customers who have implemented green computing initiatives. We checked with our local power companies – both offer rebate programs.


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Where does a company’s greatest savings lie when it comes to power management?

When they add up the cost of energy being wasted, companies will probably be shocked at the numbers. Turning off PCs is the key to success, and desktop power management tools will pay for themselves if they’re implemented properly. It is essential that organizations use reporting features to make sure people are really turning off their PCs and not circumventing the power management policies. If policies are implemented and followed, companies can save as much as $25 to $75 per PC per year, according to Energy Star.

Recently, a third party found that companies could save 178 kilowatt hours per year per PC on average through power management. A recent Forrester blog post explained that AT&T expects to save 135 million kilowatt hours of electricity by powering their 300,000 PCs during non-working hours. According to Forrester, this should add up to a savings of about $12.8 million per year. Also, Gartner estimates that PC power management can save a 2,500-PC organization more than $40,000 annually.

What are the steps to qualify for a power management rebate?

First, identify local programs being offered through your power companies. Then obtain the necessary forms and guidelines. You may have to submit a formal written plan for saving energy, but it could be as simple as saying, “We’re going to replace 1,000 PCs with Energy Star-rated PCs.” and estimating your energy savings by doing so. The power company will reserve funds for you based on your plan, once it has been reviewed and approved.

Next, you need to implement your plan. Typically that might include buying power management software and deploying it on all endpoints, replacing old desktops and consolidating servers. Note that some power companies will only recognize desktops as part of the plan, since laptops are always much more power efficient than desktops. You need to let the power management software run to establish an average baseline of uptime. Once you have a baseline, you run your power management policy and should see an immediate and dramatic reduction in the uptime of your PCs.

The final step is to calculate your power savings. The formula is: uptime X cost of power in your area = how much power you’re consuming. You should compare this number to the amount of power you consume when your PCs are on all the time. You can do so by purchasing a Kill-A-Watt meter, available for about $30 from a hardware store or online. This meter will help you calculate wattage consumption. For example, a 110-volt system running at 0.5 amps is roughly equivalent to 55 watts. You can determine your maximum power draw by looking at the power rating of your PC power supply; 500W or more is common with high end gaming desktops for example.

By inputting the amount of power you’re consuming with all PCs on and comparing that to how much power you’re saving with your power management program, you can estimate your savings over three to five years. You then submit this data to your local power company. Some companies also require a detailed inventory of the machines with the power management software installed, along with proof of purchase of license and an expiration date. If you’ve implemented your plan as you said you would, the power company should send you a check.

By inputting the amount of power you’re consuming with all PCs on and comparing that to how much power you’re saving with your power management program, you can estimate your savings a few years out.
You then submit this data to your local power company. Some companies also require a detailed inventory of the machines with the power management software installed, along with proof of purchase of license and an expiration date. If you’ve implemented your plan as you said you would, the power company should send you a check.

What additional resources are available on power management?

1. EPA.gov. On this site you’ll find information about power management programs as well as an easy-to-use calculator for estimating savings.
2. U.S. government’s Energy Star site
3. Kill-A-Watt meter. Available from a local hardware store, this tells you how much power your systems are drawing.
4. Wake-on-LAN.
5. Local power company site for rebates; these are typically broken down into domestic rebates for fridges, air conditioners, etc and commercial  rebates for businesses. Look at the commercial side of the website for information, if there isn’t a specific item for “Desktop Power Management” there may still be a rebate available through a “Custom Program.”


About the Author

, VP of Security Technologies for Lumension.





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