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More educators view cloud computing as energy-saving option

More than half of K-12 respondents said budget is a barrier to broader green computing initiatives.

An annual survey of different industries, including K-12 and higher education, reveals that attention to energy efficiency and “green” computing is increasing—although barriers such as cost still prevent complete implementation in some cases.

The fourth installment of CDW-G’s annual Energy Efficient IT Report changes course slightly in order to identify solutions that survey respondents said offer the most potential in energy efficiency, taking into account their cost, support requirements, and technical feasibility.

The survey included about 152 respondents from each of several industries: the business/nonprofit sector, the federal government, state and local government, higher education, and K-12 education.

In the report, green computing is defined as “products/services that are energy efficient, water efficient, bio-based, environmentally preferable, or non-ozone depleting.”

Results indicate that most organizations believe implementing energy-efficient IT solutions will be harder than it actually is. For instance, when asked to rank ease of implementation on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the easiest, the average organization anticipated that implementing hardware with lower-power processors would rank a 5.7. According to those who have implemented such solutions, the reality of implementation is around a 6.1—easier than most think.

Barriers to broader green computing initiatives include lack of budget (56 percent) and other projects that take more priority (50 percent).

Seventy-one percent of higher-education participants and 72 percent of K-12 survey participants said they have reduced their data center energy costs by 1 percent or more.

Higher-ed IT respondents said the solution most likely to offer energy savings is an energy-efficient UPS (uninterruptible power supply), with 48 percent of those surveyed answering in kind.

Sixty-five percent of K-12 respondents said that new cooling approaches are most likely to help save on energy costs.

In the higher-education arena, 33 percent of data center purchases in the last three months have been “green.” And while 49 percent of 2010 survey respondents agreed that cloud computing is an energy-efficient approach, that figure jumped to 62 percent in 2011.

Among higher education, the top three green technologies implemented were virtualized servers/storage, consolidated servers, and hardware that employs newer, low-power/low-wattage processors.

The easiest energy-efficient solutions to implement, from a technical and managerial standpoint, are hardware that employs newer, low-power/low-wattage processors, ENERGY STAR qualified devices, and virtualized servers/storage.

Solutions most likely to offer higher education savings are energy-efficient UPS, consolidated servers, and virtualized servers/storage.

Thirty percent of K-12 data center purchases in the past three months have been “green.” Forty-seven percent of 2010 survey respondents said they think cloud computing is an energy-efficient approach, while 64 percent of 2011 survey participants agreed.

Top technologies implemented in K-12 are consolidated servers, virtualized servers/storage, and hardware that employs newer, low-power/low-wattage processors.

When it comes to technical and management considerations, the easiest technologies to implement are ENERGY STAR qualified devices, hardware that employs newer, low-power/low-wattage processors, and consolidated servers.

K-12 survey respondents said that new cooling approaches, virtualized servers/storage, and ENERGY STAR qualified devices are the most likely to offer savings.

The report offers a number of recommendations to help industries, including education, evaluate their energy use and options:

  • Understand your energy use: Implement software tools that measure current data center energy consumption.
  • Explore the solutions ratings maps: Find solutions that offer your organization achievable savings from your next investments.
  • Compare and estimate savings: Compare current savings with averages from other organizations and estimate savings for future investments.
  • Raise the issue: Share investment plans and savings projections with senior management to prioritize green initiatives.
  • Consider cloud: Establish cloud building blocks, such as server virtualization, to prepare your organization for the next level of energy efficient technology.

“While cloud computing is a market basket of discrete technologies and services,” said Norm Lillis, vice president of systems solutions at CDW, “it is entirely about IT efficiency, and as a strategy, it can deliver significant energy savings that will complement other solutions within the data center.”

Education stakeholders are working to spread awareness and implement green and energy-efficient practices.

The U.S. Education Department created the Green Ribbon Schools program to recognize schools that are creating healthy and sustainable learning environments and teaching environmental literacy. The awards program receives support from the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Consortium for School Networking’s Green Computing Leadership Initiative provides tools, tips, and resources for school technology leaders to help reduce their school district carbon footprint.

In 2009, CoSN and EPEAT launched CoSN’s Green Computing Certification Program. The program for schools and school districts recognizes school leaders who are taking the lead in establishing comprehensive greener computing policies and following them up with targeted actions that reduce energy consumption, greenhouses gases, waste, and toxics.

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