Efficiency Gains in Campus Computing

Campus sustainability initiatives frequently focus on energy efficiency. Our Information Technology department emphasizes operational efficiency in addition to energy savings, demonstrating a commitment to sustainability that reduces energy consumption and operating costs while protecting valuable human resources and providing crucial services to our campus community. The list of IT’s sustainability initiatives is too long to detail here — a new digital phone system, better networking of print services, power management adjustments in new operating software, and much more — but let’s highlight a couple of recent significant efforts.

This past year, IT has replaced desktop computer units with thin clients in residence hall computer clusters  and other high-use areas.  These thin clients operate through “virtualization,” logging each user into a central server instead of operating dozens of local hard drives to support the same functions.  The thin clients essentially have no moving parts and use a fraction of the energy — less than 10% of the PC units they replaced. They cost about half as much and last longer, reducing replacement costs over the life of the machines.  Based on the manufacturer’s energy specifications and our adjusted power management practices, our IT team projects an annual energy savings of nearly $12,000 by replacing these 45 machines.  Click here to see some of the detailed savings projections.

Of  course, centralizing computing on network servers also significantly reduces maintenance expenses.  Software and security updates for all of these public computers can now be made in a single location, eliminating the need to service each individual machine on a monthly basis, and freeing up our IT staff to work on other priority projects.

Importantly, this virtualization of campus computing has been accompanied by an optimization of server activity.  As System Administrator Aaron Kennedy points out, “Much of the energy consumption in IT is not due to the hardware itself but rather the need to maintain a cool enough operating temperature given the amount of heat being produced by the hardware. Servers don’t just need electricity – they also require air-conditioning.” IT has reduced the total number of servers on campus from 22 down to 7, utilizing blade servers to reduce energy consumption and the need for space conditioning.

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