Greening the PC Infrastructure


Enterprises are awash with tools and techniques -- from virtualization to SSDs -- that bring tremendous reductions in power consumption to servers, storage and networks. But when it comes to the PC, little is being done.

That's Forrester's conclusion based on its latest survey of IT managers, which found that only 13 percent have implemented any meaningful PC power-management system, while only another 18 percent have started on a limited basis. Among the reasons given for the hesitancy are user backlash at such things as hibernation and auto-shut off and a widespread belief that PC power draw is minimal at best.

That's a shame because, according to Gartner, nearly a third of enterprise power is consumed by PCs and peripherals. Besides, the most effective power-saving techniques are quite easy to implement. They include powering down at night, which, contrary to popular belief, does save more energy than is consumed by the power surge of the next morning's start-up. You also should be leery of PC vendors' energy claims, using your own energy draw as a guide to what works and what doesn't.

For those of you willing to implement an automated PC power-management system, this week's Microsoft Management Summit has seen a number of new additions to the field.

One is Adaptiva's Green Planet system, which is designed to give end-users a stake in the power management game by allowing them to refine the admin policies to account for things such as personalized work schedules, vacations and other intangibles. The system also can be integrated into Microsoft System Center Configuration Management (MSCCM) and Microsoft Systems Management Server to tie PC power management into overall data center control.

Another solution comes from Verdiem, which has released the Power Management Pack to integrate the company's Surveyor system into MSCCM. The goal is to marry PC administration and management with broader IT processes to form a more holistic approach to energy savings. For example, the system can be set to automatically wake machines for updates and policy refreshes or manually shut down or restart machines from a centralized console. It also provides a "Set It and Forget It" function that relieves management burdens by logging Surveyor activity as Configuration Manager status messages.

The biggest obstacle to PC power management is the feeling that spending time and energy on squeezing every last drop out of each PC is not as cost-effective as partitioning servers or deploying low-power disk drives. But that is an example of limited thinking. Individually, the PC is not a major energy hog, but taken collectively, they represent quite a shift in consumption. And since most users assume ownership of their company-provided PCs anyway, the burden is spread out over a wide number of people.

In this case, a little effort can produce a big reward.