Going Greener with Configuration & Supplier Management

I was reading an article recently that said, “Data centre administrators everywhere are being bombarded with tips and pitches for improving the energy efficiency of their facilities”.

The article entitled “Turn Your Data Centre Green by Doing Business as Usual” went on to say that though an administrator has to be proactive to make their data centre greener, they can conduct business as usual and still see their data centre “deepen its emerald hue”.

What the article was referring to was the fact that the components of the data centre are always being refreshed. Software is upgraded. So is the hardware and network infrastructure. The newer components that are brought online will be hopefully more energy efficient than the ones previously in existence. The result should be lower energy costs and reduced carbon footprint.

The example quoted was swapping out old hardware every three years and how this could have a substantial impact on a data centre’s carbon footprint.

There are of course two key requirements you need to make this work

  1. You know the age of all your hardware so you can identify candidates for refresh, and
  2. You are assured that the hardware you are replacing it with is more energy efficient and environmentally sound than its predecessor.

You may have outsourced this arrangement and be leaving it up to the supplier but I would suggest that even in that scenario you should be maintaining some level of control and assurance of service.

The key is Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM). Maintenance of an accurate and comprehensive Configuration Management System (CMS), which includes the age of hardware and software as an attribute of each  configuration item (CI) will allow you to identify the age of your entire infrastructure and its components and the refresh programme needed to maintain it.

Remember the refresh is not just about servers within the data centre but desktops, laptops, printers, multi-function devices and so on. The refresh should also include aging software applications, which are likely to be more power hungry than their replacement.

That covers off the first requirement. Supplier Management covers the second requirement in conjunction with SACM. All suppliers along with their products, goods and services should be subject to selection criteria to ensure that they support the sustainability objectives of the organisation.

These should include the fact that hardware and software provided should be more energy efficient and generate less carbon emissions that its predecessor.

Let’s look at some of the selection criteria that can be used

Selection criteria can include EPEAT criterion. EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) is a system that helps purchasers evaluate, compare and select electronic products based on their environmental attributes. The system currently covers desktop and laptop computers, thin clients, workstations and computer monitors. Desktops, laptops and monitors that meet 23 required environmental performance criteria may be registered in EPEAT by their manufacturers. Registered products are rated gold, silver or bronze depending on the percentage of 28 optional criteria they meet above the baseline criteria.

The hardware CI should have the EPEAT rating recorded as an attribute.

Products such as desktops, laptops, printers and servers etc can also be selected based on their assigned energy efficiency ratings such as Energy Star.

Energy Star is an international standard for energy efficient consumer products that originated in the USA but now adopted in Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union. Products can earn the ENERGY STAR label by meeting the energy efficiency requirements set forth in ENERGY STAR product specifications.

The hardware CI should have the Energy Star rating recorded as an attribute.

Selection criteria can include suppliers that comply with the Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive. Suppliers complying with RoHS have restricted the use of certain hazardous materials i the manufacture of their products. This directive restricts the use of six hazardous materials in the manufacture of various types of electronic and electrical equipment. These are lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ether.

The hardware CI should have the RoHS compliance of the supplier recorded as an attribute.

Selection criteria can include suppliers including with the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment). Suppliers complying with the WEEE directive have taken on responsibility for the disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment. They have established an infrastructure for collecting WEEE.

The hardware CI should have the WEEE compliance of the supplier recorded as an attribute.

Selection criteria can include suppliers that have gained ISO 14001 accreditation. Suppliers with ISO 140001 accreditation have demonstrated via an audited process that they have effective environmental management systems in place.

The hardware (supplier or software) CI should have the ISO 14001 compliance of the supplier recorded as an attribute.

Now we have determined our selection criteria and we have recorded compliance or not to those criteria as an attribute on our CIs, we can establish targets and metrics including:

  • Percentage increase in the number of CIs in the CMS that contain energy efficiency ratings e.g. EnergyStar
  • Percentage increase in the number of CIs in the CMS that comply with EPEAT criteria (e.g. gold, silver, bronze)
  • Percentage increase in the number of supplier CIs (or the hardware /software CIs that provide) that have ISO 14001 accreditation
  • Percentage increase in the number of supplier CIS (or the hardware /software CIs that provide) that have RoHS compliance
  • Percentage increase in the number of supplier CIS (or the hardware /software CIs that provide) that have WEEE compliance

The CMS and SACM process allows you to determine what needs to be refreshed and when, but the definition of selection criteria and the recording of compliance or not to that criteria, ensures that the replacement is more environmentally sound than that which went before.

There will be many more selection criteria that you may wish to add into your Supplier Management process and record in the CMS. Those referenced here are just some of the ones that are key to the improvement in environmental performance.

There is a lot more that the SACM process has to offer in the support of a more sustainable IT organisation but I shall save that for another day. Maybe tomorrow!








ISO 14001


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