Let’s Bundle PC Power Management!

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Desktop management saves power, but it won’t be universal until we see cloud-based services bundled with new PCs, says Peter Judge

Which is most exciting? Wind farms and green power stations, or loft insulation? You may, of course, say neither, but when you talk about renewable energy, most people get more interested in a big new plant, than in small moves to cut waste, distributed across the network.

Despite this, it’s generally agreed that cutting waste and making better use of the energy we have is more cost-effective in reducing emissions than building a new generating plant. And of course, Britain’s future energy crisis is so stark now, that we must do both.

There’s a similar sort of thought-process going on around PC power management.

Controlling desktops is a quick win

eWEEK readers have told us in our polls that controlling PCs is the quickest win for any company wanting to reduce its carbon footprint. Switching off laptops and PCs, can cut energy consumption massively. But Green IT events tend to focus on bigger centralised initiatives, for instance the launch of new low-energy data centres.

Data centres are visible, and servers use lots of power, all on one electricity bill. So Green IT has tended to concentrate on making them more efficient.

By contrast, desktop PCs have been largely unnoticed, even though as many as 80 percent of corporate PCs may be left on overnight. Not through carelessness, but because the IT department demands it, so urgent security patches can be downloaded and installed at any time.

For some years, desktop management products have been able to manage the power state of PCs, so they can be put into deep sleep, and only woken up when a software update is needed. These solutions have tended to be a bit complex to put in place, but have a clear payback of around £25 per desktop per year, so the technology pays for itself in a year or so.

Despite this, there is still a very low take-up of the offerings.

… but they are complex to set up

The reasons probably include the perceived difficulty of implementing the solutions, and the fact that electricity bills are often masked in facilities contracts. That factor may change if the government keeps its word on the CRC energy efficiency scheme. CRC has become an energy tax on large organisations and will effectively add to the cost of energy, unless it is destroyed by business lobbyists.

Smaller businesses have not been able to use the typical power management products, because they don’t have enough to justify the additional infrastructure cost. To get round this, a  few suppliers are now talking about offering desktop management from the cloud.

In the end, though, this tech won’t become ubiquitous until it becomes very easy. All PCs should be running anti-virus, and the proportion has increased, because there are plenty of good services which are free to consumers (such as Avast, AVG and ESET) and all PCs ship with a free introduction to one of the large commercial  offerings.

Power management won’t get used more until it is as universally available – and preferably a lot easier t0 use – than anti-virus.

Let’s make it easy to use

Now there are signs that this is happening, but it is slow. Microsoft’s systems management offerings include some features, and Novell is making power management a major plank of ZenWorks. This sort of move ought to get more corporate PCs under control, but it is mostly about selling more copies of one systems management product or another. Analyst  Andrew Donoghue of The 451 Group describes it as a “Trojan Horse”.

What we need next is for power management to get bundled. We want small-business and consumer-level PCs to come with access to a cloud-based PC power management.

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