PC Power Controls Will Move To The Cloud

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Managing desktops cuts energy use, but vendors will have to offer it online, according to a report

Users will get help turning computers off at night, as energy-saving PC management tools move to the cloud, according to an analyst report.

Managing PCs may be the best way for companies to cut their energy bill and their carbon footprint, but few PCs are currently managed. In the next year or two, this figure will increase, as energy management abilities become standard features in computer operating systems and in cloud-based services, according to PC Power Management from the Eco-IT practice at the 451 Group.

Why don’t people already manage PCs?

PCs which are left on overnight are a waste of energy and turning them off is probably the most cost effective way to cut corporate energy use, but only around 20 percent of business PCs are currently managed, with a big proportion of the other 80 percent left on overnight.

“We think that the market for centralised power management tools is only about 20 percent saturated overall,” said the report’s author, analyst Andrew Donoghue  “This figure is slightly higher at around 30 percent for larger companies but there is still a lot of growth potential out there.”

Over recent years, power costs have gone up and companies have been pushed towards energy efficiency by an awareness of climate change. However, many organisations insist on leaving PCs turned on for security reasons, so they can be patched quickly with software updates.

Several tools manage PC power, putting them into low-power states from which they can be wakened remotely, but there have been difficulties with these tools – particularly for small and medium-sized businesses.

Last year, management provider Verismic launched a PC management product in the form of software as a service (SaaS), promising that SMBs would be able to start controlling their PCs’ power state with no initial investment. Other companies including 1E are expected to follow suit this year.

The move to the cloud is  long overdue, according to Donoghue, but does not represent any technological breakthrough: “Launching cloud alternatives to on-premises tools has been a technical reality for PC PM for several years,” said Donoghue. “However, the upselling of other services, plus lucrative licenses from on-premises products, has kept cloud-based offerings off the table for most vendors until now. The current push to launch hosted versions is less about innovation, or meeting customer needs, and more of a sign that the market for on-premises enterprise-wide products is finite.”

PC management gaining traction

Donoghue expects PC management to penetrate the market fast over the next three years or so, partly fuelled by the  availability of hosted tools, and boosted by environmental factors: “The major driver will be increasing energy costs, and environmental legislation,” he said. “Many US states offer rebates for the use of PC power management which is helping to propel uptake.”

In Europe, these factors are different, and penalties such as energy taxes are likely to be more important, he said, pointing to the recent changes to the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme in the UK.

In the long term, he expects the uptake of standalone power management tools to wane, thanks to “uptake of desktop virtualisation, more efficient hardware generally, and Microsoft and other OS providers building in better power management tools”.

Desktop power management will become just part of overall energy management systems which control other corporate infrastructure such as air conditioning and heating. “PCs will become just one of the devices in this enterprise Energy Management future which is already being investigated by companies such as Joulex, Cisco and Verdiem,” said Donoghue.

Ironically, at the moment, one of the biggest barriers is the IT department, said Donoghue. While users are happy to switch their PCs off, IT staff who have to bear the brunt of upgrading and managing software are less willing, expecially as most of them still don’t directly see the savings in electricity as those bills go to the facilities management department.

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