IT Management

A recent IBM survey of global Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) indicates they view environmental issues as the least important challenge facing today’s medium and large enterprises—and, for the most part, CEOs agree with them. So why should an IT organization place end-to-end energy management, with the mainframe as the hub, at or near the top of its strategic initiatives?

The answer is that the same study indicates the same CMOs and CEOs show every sign of not understanding the implications of their own challenges and strategies for overcoming those challenges. Number one on the CMO’s list is having a better relationship with the customer by delivering a common message of a strong company “character” as shown by its customer-interfacing employees and systems. But recent studies in the MIT Sloan Management Review show that over the long run, in most cases, a genuine sustainability strategy is the best way to motivate employees to deliver a high-quality customer interaction and cement the image of company ethics and responsibility in the customer’s mind. And the most effective foundation of such a sustainability strategy is comprehensive energy and carbon emissions management software that tells the company how it’s doing and—via analytics—how it can do better.

Some companies have implemented accounting systems that include “carbon costing” for all cost and profit centers. But their estimates of carbon and energy usage are, in most cases, little better than guesstimates, because the software to aggregate available company data—end-to-end energy management software—typically isn’t operating across the enterprise. In fact, the only place with good energy management software in most cases is the data center, and the system on which that software runs is typically the mainframe.

Even the IT department often underestimates the costs of such a gigantic “energy blind spot.” In the interest of cost reduction, energy usage flows to unmonitored and sub-optimal places. For example, a recent cost-reducing move allows employees to bring in their own laptops. However, as Carol Baroudi, author of Green IT for Dummies, noted in a recent post, these can be much less energy efficient. Other effects include use of local office desktop servers rather than the data center scale-up server because acquisition costs are cheaper, and offshoring corporate functions to emerging countries whose available infrastructure is more energy inefficient.

But the advantages of end-to-end energy management go beyond better measurement and prevention of “flight to the inefficient.” Often the path to greater energy efficiency is in understanding the interaction of many different pieces of a solution in the real world. End-to-end energy management software shows how to load balance energy to avoid brownouts as well as  avoid air-conditioning surges and overuse.

Recent scientific studies suggest these energy and cost inefficiencies will be greatly exacerbated by global climate change in the next 10 to 20 years. Buildings designed for a mix of winter and summer will become increasingly inefficient as summer increases and winter decreases. Increases in violent storms will cause outages for more building assets. Already, insurance companies are withdrawing policies from areas that appear likely to generate exorbitant disaster costs, and indications are that they’re late and too conservative in doing so. The IT department and the enterprise will need to consider the possibility that insurance for key assets will no longer be available.

OK, so why should the mainframe be the hub for end-to-end energy management? The short answer is that, for the foreseeable future, the mainframe is the most energy efficient asset the IT department has, and therefore, is the best bet to be the locus of long-term energy management software. The mainframe has achieved improvements of up to 90 percent in per-application

efficiency over the last few years, a far better record than alternatives. It has longer experience in designed-in energy efficiency across the data center, and thus in global optimization of energy usage. It scales to meet new energy management demands more cost-effectively.

And, over the last five years, IBM has focused on creating mainframe support for this type of hub in which software is on different platforms but the mainframe coordinates.

So, the energy the IT department doesn’t monitor indeed hurts the organization over the long run. In fact, lack of end-to-end energy management hurts the company’s image over the short run, too, as blogging activists point out the gaping flaws in company sustainability strategies. It’s time to take energy management more seriously via an end-to-end energy management solution. The mainframe is the logical place to start.