At E.ON UK, we believe that IT has a real opportunity to support the sustainability objectives of the wider organisation, and there are genuine benefits for IT in doing so. But before embarking on our ‘green IT’ journey it was vital to define and agree what we were trying to achieve and our overall objectives.

For us, there were two key goals: to materially contribute to E.ON UK's target of reducing its office carbon footprint by 10% year on year, and to reduce IT operating costs through increased energy and asset efficiency.

But the next challenge was of course, how? In our experience, any commitment to sustainability has to be founded on four basic principles: establish a policy to explain what sustainable IT means to the enterprise; create a strategy and targeted work programme with cost justified investment; ensure that success can be measured; and, most importantly, keep it simple. Why the latter? Because I firmly believe that the biggest impact in the first couple of years can be achieved by taking relatively simple steps.

We created work programmes under four main areas of impact - Consolidation and Rationalisation; IT Impact on People and Behaviour; Disposal and Recycling; and New Technology.

For consolidation and rationalisation, the key is to achieve more utilisation from your existing IT assets, and therefore increase the energy efficiency of the IT estate and reduce the cost of operation. It's difficult to do this in a distributed, heterogeneous environment, however we were already underway with standardising and rationalising the infrastructure through a large scale data centre consolidation programme, migrating all servers and storage into one large, mirrored location in the UK and using an architecture approach to standardise and consolidate the infrastructure.

This is now being extended to a data centre consolidation programme across all E.ON locations in Europe, reducing from over 27 data centres to just three, serving as many as 88,000 employees.

The UK data centre migration in itself has significantly reduced the number of servers and other duplicated infrastructure assets, and we will realise a reduction of over £1M in IT energy costs over the life of the project, alongside other efficiency and people savings.

In fact, this consolidation has provided a platform for further progress, enabling us to take advantage of virtualisation technologies to increase hardware use even further.

Like many other companies, the start point was virtualising our Windows machines using VMWare, which has now become the default approach to provisioning new Windows-based applications in E.ON UK.

We have over 400 VMWare instances deployed in production, resulting in an average 16 to 1 consolidation, significant energy efficiency gains, and a more flexible capability for providing server capacity to applications.

Beyond this, we’ll move into the next phase of our strategy y increasing the utilisation of the UNIX estate through resource-sharing partitioning.

Under the umbrella of IT Impact on People and Behaviour, our CIO has worked in partnership with our business areas to deploy technology to support E.ON UK employees in reducing their individual carbon footprint.

This has focussed mainly on building an infrastructure and culture that enable and encourage remote collaboration through deployment of travel substitution tools such as Microsoft LiveMeeting and WebEx, combined with IP telephony, and rolling out broadband to employees for high speed access to these tools from home.

Real business drivers for 'Green' or sustainable IT are now very clear, despite the industry hype and greenwashing. The question for CIOs and IT managers is not 'should I be doing something about Green IT' but 'how do I implement Green IT?'

Cisco TelePresence video conferencing is currently being deployed to support international conferencing and reduce the level of air travel.

The key to success in all of these projects has been achieving the buy-in of employees, which has been delivered through a business led programme called 'Environmental Champions' designed to create a change in attitude to toward travelling and personal environmental impact, and encourage the adoption of these tools.

Other initiatives have included deploying a tool called SMS Companion which automatically powers down PCs across our UK network overnight, resulting in a reduction of £140k per year in energy costs alone.

Disposal and recycling of IT equipment is largely down to asset management and use of service providers. We set firm asset lifecycles and contract with a number of providers to deal with end-of-life equipment in a sustainable fashion, Tier-1 for desktops and laptops. These machines are either recycled or donated to charity, mostly for use by schools in the developing world.

As we move into the next phase of our roadmap, more focus is being placed on new technology, where E.ON has a European-wide innovation project that goes beyond the more 'simple' initiatives to look at ways of improving thermal efficiency and power provision in the data centres.

We are actively working with industry partners to explore options to invest in new cooling and power technology. This presents many challenges because these are not 'green field' data centre sites, so it is important to create a considered strategy and viable business case.

To support this work we are beginning to measure power usage effectiveness or 'PUE' which measures the proportion of power consumed doing productive work vs. energy used doing non-productive activities. This metric, combined with other KPIs, is the start of developing a performance 'dashboard' for the impact of IT on the environment.

None of the steps that have taken are unique, and there are of course many other things that IT organisations can do to improve the environmental sustainability of their IT activities.

My key recommendation is to define your objectives and align these with your company CSR values, then develop a structured ‘policy and strategy’ led approach that defines a roadmap and categorise implementation efforts into work streams, many of which will probably align with work you are already doing. It’s then just a case of deliver, communicate, and measure.

Nathan Bishop, Head of Infrastructure Design at EON IS UK, is a keynote speaker at Green IT08

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