How to Cut IT Energy Consumption Using Business Service Management

By Chris Rixon  |  Posted 2009-11-02

How to Cut IT Energy Consumption Using Business Service Management

Imagine buying a case of soda for a party at your place Friday night. You discover your refrigerator is full, so you buy another refrigerator and put it in the garage to store the soda. Then you buy a few cases of other drinks-and another refrigerator. You buy some hors d'oeuvres and, of course, another refrigerator. By the time the party is over, you have five refrigerators in the garage, each one containing a few leftover items. Each one is running 24/7 to keep those items cold. And, month after month, you're paying for the power those refrigerators consume.

Over the years, IT has done pretty much the same thing with servers. They weren't really being frivolous, as in the case of the refrigerators. After all, IT truly has been under intense pressure to implement an expanding number of new business services-services that are critical the success of the enterprise. To provide those services, ensure reliability and guarantee enough capacity for peak times, IT staff has typically added hundreds, maybe even thousands of servers over the years. Each one, however, is seriously underutilized. Some enterprises have even found servers that were consuming power but no longer providing any service at all.

As a result of all these servers, power consumption in IT has skyrocketed. So have energy costs. One CIO of a global investment bank, for example, discovered that his company was paying nearly $2 million a year to power its computing systems. What's more, he learned that the IT energy cost per square foot was more than 15 times that of other departments.

So, just how can companies tackle this challenge? Very few have the capital budget to replace current equipment with newer, green versions that consume much less energy. Fortunately, there is a practical way to achieve green IT objectives while increasing efficiency.

BSM: A Rewarding First Step

BSM: A rewarding first step

The first step requires minimal capital investment, yet it delivers a huge payback in energy conservation. It's a holistic approach that addresses green IT within the broader context of increasing business service efficiency.

The approach is based on Business Service Management (BSM) or managing IT based on business priorities. Business service efficiency strives to achieve a balanced set of outcomes that include financial gains, operational yields and environmental benefits.

The first step is to understand the capacity you have, what it is costing, and what value it contributes to the business. This information enables you to discover not only unused capacity, but you can also discover capacity that is being used but that contributes no business value.

Solutions are available to help you in this quest. With the insight such solutions allow, you can take a simple step to use capacity more efficiently. You simply identify any piece of equipment that is consuming energy but providing no useful services. Then, just turn it off. Like many other IT professionals, you'll be amazed at how many of those devices are hiding in your IT infrastructure.

Continue the Pursuit

Continue the pursuit

You follow up your first step with a series of efforts that continue to drive efficiencies in the IT environment. One is to cull the remaining services you are delivering by eliminating those that have a cost that is disproportionate to the value they contribute. To do that, you need cost data that helps you and business managers make wiser choices about the services IT delivers.

When you have cost information, for example, you can demonstrate to your business users how much IT must charge for each service. Then, based on that charge, you can ask if they want to continue receiving that service or terminate it.

Another action is the consolidation of workloads onto a smaller number of servers. This further reduces the number of servers, which naturally brings down energy consumption. It also increases resource utilization by taking advantage of surplus capacity. A key success factor in server consolidation is effective planning. An important aspect of planning is to understand how much server capacity you have and how that capacity can be best utilized to deliver business services at required performance levels. The goal is to strike the optimum balance between capacity utilization and performance.

Virtualization is another method of shrinking the number of physical servers. Solutions are available that enable you to leverage the capacity information you have gathered to move forward in your consolidation and virtualization initiatives. With these solutions, you can analyze current usage profiles to determine a more efficient resource allocation-one with a smaller processing footprint that still enables you to meet the usage profile.

Finally, you can look beyond the data center in your energy conservation efforts. The average PC consumes much more energy than a television set. Sleep mode does little to reduce the amount of energy these machines burn up. Look at ways to power them down when they are not in use without jeopardizing your ability to manage them. Software is available to help you keep them patched, even if they aren't on all the time.

Business Service Efficiency

Expand your field of vision to business service efficiency

IT is under intense pressure from senior management to improve service while holding budgets flat. IT has been striving to meet this mandate through server consolidation, server virtualization, configuration management, energy efficiency improvements in desktops and laptops, and IT process improvement through implementation of best practice processes such as those outlined in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

Most IT organizations have been addressing these issues separately, with varying levels of success. The key is to address all of them under a single, holistic, systemic approach that strives to increase your overall efficiency in delivering business services. Toward this end, expand your field of vision from saving energy to increasing business service efficiency. Focus your resources on the things that matter to your business. You'll achieve the following financial, operational and environmental gains as a result:

1. Financial gains: For every physical server you eliminate, you can save nearly $500 a year. Turning off client computers when they are not in use can save about $40 per desktop PC and $20 per laptop each year.

2. Operational gains: By doing more with less equipment, you can add services without increasing your data center staff or data center space. What's more, you'll simplify the IT infrastructure, making it easier and less costly to manage and support.

3. Environmental gains: You'll free up an estimated 6,000 kilowatt hours a year for every server you eliminate-6 million kilowatt hours per year if you eliminate 1,000 servers. That's enough electricity for nearly 1,500 homes for a year in some regions.

Leverage BSM solutions to make IT more efficient and green

BSM provides a natural process framework to address business service efficiency across all IT areas including service design, service operation and service support. BSM captures IT as a service delivery function, focusing on managing the IT infrastructure by business service instead of by device. You approach service management from the business user's perspective, determining what services are important to the business and finding ways to deliver those services most efficiently.

This approach is a practical and effective one that allows you to go green without the disruption and cost of wholesale replacement of computing hardware with newer green machines. The simple first step requires only a small capital outlay but it sets the stage for incremental and continual improvements to efficiency. What's most exciting about this approach is that it lets you achieve huge cost savings while positioning IT as a socially responsible corporate citizen that is doing its part for energy conservation.

Chris Rixon is Director of Field Marketing EMEA at BMC Software. Chris has 18 years of experience in IT and has held a variety of roles in systems development, architecture, sales and marketing. In the last eight years, his focus has been on IT systems management technologies and their role in making technology infrastructure more stable, agile and efficient. Chris also addresses issues related to green IT and business service management, discussing the impact of these topics on IT and business. He can be reached at

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