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Eskom (the South African power utility) is warning us that we face power shortages for at least the next 5 years.  Are we doing enough as corporate South Africa and in particular as IT professionals to reduce energy consumption?

Corporate PC Power management solutions have become the norm in many of the largest organisations on the planet.  Wallmart, Boeing, AT&T and Citbank would be to name but a few.  It is staggering however, how many large organisations in South Africa are still failing to recognise this opportunity for a quick win with significant costs savings.

The case for Power Management is pretty straightforward, power off unused devices which are typically kept on in corporate networks and save a heap of money.  Sounds simple at first glance but there are a lot of catches which is why we still have procrastination in many organisations.  The procrastination comes from valid concerns around manageability, security and general health of the environment.  However, what corporate IT architects fail to recognise is that with the correct tooling in place, all of these concerns can be overcome and in fact enterprise power management tools will enhance and improve the overall health of the estate and ultimately the service that is delivered.

There are two major stumbling blocks with power management technology taking root.  The first is that we can ‘do it ourselves’ with existing systems management tool sets or use social engineering and educate users as a solution, the second is that ‘we will not power off’ due to patching requirement and network security.

Often systems management tools do not work very well.  The functionality is basic at best and results in ‘bare minimum’ savings that are hardly worth hanging your hat on.  In fact, due to inadequacies in functionality and reporting that is often irrelevant, IT often turn these solutions off, saying that they have ‘tried it but it can’t be done’.  Intelligent tooling designed for PC power management overcomes these issues and can ensure that devices are managed and reported in a correct fashion.  Secondly, user education or social engineering, unless it is drummed in daily will not have the desired effect and if it does, one still needs to overcome the management requirements once a machine is in a lower power state or even powered off.

So are you able to still manage your estate if it is turned off?  The short answer is yes, but again, only with the correct tools.  Years ago, when wake-on-lan (WOL) was developed it was expected that the days of leaving PC’s on would be a thing of the past.  The reality proved different.  WOL required magic packet broadcasts and network administrators were rightly loath to put ‘holes’ in their network security to allow this.  The intelligent power management tools out there overcome this with some neat tricks and ensure that you can wake machines up with no network changes, and put them back to sleep again.

An important point is to be aware of how a vendor wakes a machine.  It is pointless waking a machine through an OS clock timer as the minute it goes to ‘sleep it is unmanaged.  Any tooling you choose should have the ability to wake machines when you want them awake. They should also only wake specific and targeted devices and not entire subnets. Solutions should also allow you to place machines into any lower power state including powered off or reboot.  This is largely for patching reasons and ensures that patching happens on a fresh install which always increases the patching success rate.

In conclusion, if you are a corporate, you should be looking at this technology within your architecture and the analysts attest to this as well.  Although now a little outdates, according to Gartner, Inc., in its March 2009 report, “When to Consider Commercial PC Power Management Tools,” PCs and peripherals consume more energy than any other information and communications technology group”.  In the same report Gartner also mentioned that by 2012, more than 50% of midsize and large organizations will centrally manage desktop power states.  Is your company one of the 50%?

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