JISC Issues ‘Top Tips’ For Green IT Department

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

With tough targets looming over carbon emissions, a list of simple steps has been compiled for IT departments looking to save energy

With tough carbon emission quotas looming, an education advisory committee has come with its ‘top tips‘ for a sustainable IT department.

The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) is an advisory body for ICT (Information and Communications Technology) issues facing the eduction sector. Via its Climate Change Act (2008), the UK government has set a target for UK universities and colleges to reduce their carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Indeed, the reasoning behind its Top Tips recommendations is that JISC found that half of the ICT-related energy consumption in British education institutions is accounted for by PCs.

Its recommendations, as you would expect, include enabling remote PC power down for computers, printers and other equipment when not in use. In fact, according to the Carbon Trust, an average computer suite of 50 terminals can save nearly 40 tonnes of carbon a year, just by switching equipment off when not in use.

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Indeed, earlier this month British businesses were urged to power down their non-essential equipment over the Christmas and New Year break by a British energy procurement and carbon strategy consultancy. Power Efficiency said the move would significantly lower an organisation’s energy bill and would also remove any unnecessary carbon output between Christmas Eve and 4th January 2010.

Other JISC recommendations include IT management investigating whether they could change their PC fleets to thin client devices instead. For example back in July, Queen Margaret University won the Green Gown ICT award for fitting out its new campus with low-power thin clients.

The main advantage of these devices is that they require less energy to power, thanks to a centralised server handling their storage and computation requirements.

Another tip from the JISC is that servers be moved to dedicated data centres, specifically designed to run large servers more efficiently, as well as securely.

Other recommendations include extending the life of current IT equipment by checking, for example, that vents on the monitor, case, and printer have a good three to four inches of space to get good air flow, and that they are away from any cables or cubicle walls blocking them.

Also recommended is the use of video conferencing and flexible home working, in order to reduce travel and the energy associated with it.

“IT systems are a huge drain on energy resources within the higher education sector thanks to an increased demand for data storage; with the growth in research output and our use of social networks, uploading large datafiles such as pictures and video files,” said Robert Bristow, programme manager for JISC. “There are many energy savings therefore to be made just by introducing simple measures that make IT systems more efficient and agile.”

JISC’s complete list of ‘Top Tips for a sustainable IT department’ include:

  1. Enable PC power down for devices not in use
  2. Investigate moving to thin-client devices or more efficient thick-client devices
  3. Extend life of equipment
  4. Consolidate and virtualise servers. Get servers out of departments and offices into properly designed data centres
  5. Implement Hot/Cold aisle separation and containment. Look at the possibility of direct cooling of racks.
  6. Install more efficient power supply units (PSU) and uninterruptible power supply systems (UPS)
  7. Consolidate printers and enable duplex and monochrome printing by default
  8. Reduce travel by maximising the opportunities for remote conferencing and flexible and home working
  9. De-duplicate and rationalise data storage
  10. Rationalise and simplify IT systems and architectures