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NTT America Inc. this past January announced a groundbreaking green IT program created with TerraPass, a leader in the U.S. carbon-offset marketplace, which enables customers to opt into a scheme that offsets carbon dioxide emissions generated when they use an NTT America enterprise hosting or co-location service.
The offsetting is achieved through TerraPass-coordinated investments in wind farms and other carbon-reduction programs. Third-party auditing of the investments ensures credibility.
The program, the first in a series of green IT initiatives to be conducted within NTT Com’s worldwide family, is already having a positive effect on NTT America and of course the environment.
But first, what is green IT? Simply speaking, it is the practice of optimizing IT and related resources to minimize their environmental load. Green IT results in energy savings that alleviate climate change, boost operational efficiency and save costs.
Green IT as a global movement has been gaining ground among many of the world’s top-class IT, electronics and software companies. The likes of Microsoft, Cisco and IBM are now focusing on how to shrink their environmental footprints, of which carbon offsetting is only one example.
A number of factors have emerged in recent years to bring the concept and practice of green IT to the forefront, says Randy Preble, Senior Director of Enterprise Hosting Finance and Business Management at NTT America. One factor that has certainly helped to kick-start the green IT movement has been the rising cost of energy, and the related problem of rising demands for power and cooling at data centers.
"This was a critical factor in our initial thought process. We were watching our utility bills increase at rates that exceeded our revenue growth," remarks Preble.
Another major reason has been a stream of incentives, regulations and certifications that are rewarding green IT initiatives in both the private and public sectors. Some power utilities, for example, have begun offering subsidies or credits to customers who institute energy-saving programs. Indeed, the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005 created new tax incentives for building owners, which has encouraged data centers to boost their energy efficiency.
In particular, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), having already implemented the EnergyStar Certification for PCs program in 2005, is now introducing similar certification systems for servers and data centers. Last year the EPA released a landmark report which estimated that energy savings of between 30% and 80% could be achieved through improved operations, best practices and state-of-the-art equipment. The report was a clarion call to the IT industry, including NTT America, says Preble.
"Although we were influenced by several factors, the EPA report really brought the concept of green IT into the mainstream," he explains.
As a result, last spring Preble organized NTT America’s Green Initiative, an in-house study designed to identify what the company could do to strengthen its green profile.
"Green initiatives don’t happen on their own; they need a philosophical framework in which to take root and grow. The basic aim has been to create a system in which our talented employees could offer ideas. My goal has been to launch a dialogue on how to become more efficient and environmentally friendly, while also lowering costs, improving service and enhancing the brands of NTT America and NTT Com," he explains.
The first major step was taken in August 2007 with the establishment of the NTT America Green Council, a cross-departmental group that meets quarterly to review the company’s progress with green IT. The council’s mission statement reads: NTT America Inc. realizes that long-term sustainability needs to address not only financial performance, but also global environmental responsibility and stewardship.
Another important step has been efforts to establish energy-efficient data centers that offer best-in-breed, operationally efficient practices and reliable, energy-efficient technologies.
Late last year NTT America embarked on a comprehensive review of its data centers in San Jose, California and Sterling, Virginia. A third-party audit commissioned to Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture & Engineering, one of the premier consulting companies of its type in the U.S., found several measures that could reduce power consumption.
Data center energy use is typically dominated by equipment for cooling and computing, such as servers. The four most important measures identified in the month-long audit were in air-management control, mechanical systems (fan systems, etc.), operational management (monitoring optimal air temperatures, etc.) and virtualization (reduced footprint of internally hosted IT solutions).
As implementation kicks in, the results will produce significant changes, says Preble. "For each KwH of power consumption that we reduce at Lundy and Sterling, carbon emissions are lowered by about 0.9 and 1.2 pounds, respectively. Moreover, improved air management in just two rooms at Sterling will eliminate more than two million pounds (about 910,000 kg) of carbon emissions and save us $78,000 per year," Preble says.
NTT America’s carbon-offset and data-center initiatives are just two of the many ways the company plans to fulfill its green IT mandate. A number of simple, practical measures are also being implemented, such as cardboard recycling at the company’s Sterling and Denver facilities and green HR policies, such as the issuance of public transport passes to help employees reduce the carbon they would otherwise produce if they had commuted by car. The introduction of fuel cells is also being examined.
As leading hardware companies strive to boost the energy efficiency of their products, NTT America’s Product Engineering Team has begun working with product vendors and makers to help them ensure that their equipment is at the cutting edge of industry standards for energy efficiency. The team provides expert consulting in areas such as the introduction of processor power-management technology, solid-state hard drives and energy management systems.
NTT America is also considering the idea of creating a "Green Strategy" website to educate customers about its experiences in the green IT field and the ongoing results of such efforts. Not only would this promote green IT, it would enable NTT America to keep pace with the green initiatives other leading IT companies. "Most progressive companies in the U.S. are already developing green mission statements, so I expect this kind of socially responsible communication to become a basic corporate requirement," Preble observes.
Going forward, NTT America intends to remain among the industry leaders in promoting green IT. For example, it will continue to refine its green IT strategy by paying close attention to industry trends, technological developments and regulatory changes. It also will adopt increasingly sophisticated green designs when it newly builds or expands data centers. In addition, the company may beef up its internal-compliance efforts by issuing a quarterly "Green Report" to track and measure best practices.
NTT America also is developing relationships with green associations. The company has attended conferences of the UpTime Institute, a provider of vendor-neutral, research-based information on high-density enterprise computing, and often relies on information from the U.S. Green Building Council, a leading non-profit organization committed to expanding sustainable building practices.
In terms of direct impact, however, perhaps the most important move came in January, when NTT America joined the Green Grid, a global consortium of trendsetters — such as Microsoft, Dell, HP and Cisco — dedicated to advancing energy efficiency in data centers and business computing ecosystems. One of the Green Grid’s major achievements has been the introduction of industry benchmarks for measuring the energy consumption of servers, which empower members to credibly quantify their green IT measures.
"Participation in these organizations enables us to access proprietary industry studies, attend conferences on green technologies and closely follow political and technological trends," explains Preble.
"By proactively adopting and developing new technologies, leveraging new certifications and rebates, and mitigating the impact of rising energy costs, we expect to make meaningful, ongoing contributions to the green movement while concurrently strengthening our base for stable, long-term growth."