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Green IT: Examples of Success

Units from around campus are working toward making their computing operations more environmentally friendly. Below are just a couple of examples of Penn's Green IT Success.

Green Fund Desktop Power Management initiative

Optimizing your computer inventory's power settings can lead to big reductions in Penn's power consumption. With support from a Green Fund Grant Desktop Power Management program reduces power consumption by desktop and laptop computers at Penn, by utilizing the BigFix desktop management service to set and monitor power settings and consumption.

Participation in the program is based on a computer's ongoing use of power-saving settings:

  • Turning off monitors after, at most, 20 minutes of inactivity
  • Placing the computer in standby (aka "sleep") mode after, at most, 60 minutes of inactivity.

As a result of the program, the number of computers in participating schools and centers that employ power saving settings more than doubled during the period between the 1st quarter of FY 2012 and the 3rd quarter of FY 2013 with 767 additional computers adopting the new settings during that time period. Computers employing the power saving settings use - on average - 16 kWh per month less than computers running without power management settings applied. As of March 2013 A total of 1,476 computers enrolled in the Tivoli/BigFix Desktop Management Service now employ the Power Management power saving settings helping Penn reduce power consumption by more than 287,000 kWh ($24,620) per year. 

The following organizations participated in the program during FY 2012 and FY 2013:

  • Annenberg Center

  • Center for Technology Transfer

  • Center for Weight & Eating Disorders

  • College Houses & Academic Services

  • Department of Recreation & Intercollegiate Athletics

  • Development & Alumni Relations

  • Environmental Health and Radiation Safety

  • Information Systems & Computing

  • Institute for Contemporary Art

  • Office of Audit Compliance & Privacy

  • Office of Regulatory Affairs

  • Penn Press

  • President's Office

  • Provost's Office

  • School of Design

  • School of Social Policy & Practice

  • University Laboratory Animal Resources

Simple steps you can take to help you reduce your computer's power consumption can be found in under "Electricity" in the Green IT section. Be sure to check with your LSP before making any changes to your computer.

Division of Human Resources: desktop management practices

The Division of Human Resources has implemented a power management strategy, using Altiris for its 75 workstations to make sure staff computers are being turned off at night and weekends on a regular basis. They estimate to be saving Penn about $7,000 annually in electricity costs. A central server automatically shuts down the computers from 9 PM to 6 AM every weekday and 24 hours for Saturday and Sunday. Powering up the systems at 6 AM in advance of workers' arrivals, mitigates the usual excuse people use for not turning off their computers---slow boot up in the morning. Kudos to the IT Staff in Human Resources for taking the lead and achieving this green success! 

Wharton School: Vance Hall server room renovation/management

The Wharton School recently renovated one of their two data centers and incorporated several energy and cost saving features into the design. The server room is configured with hot and cold aisles with in row air conditioning, the room is lit with motion sensitive lights, and contains 21 racks (the room can hold 30 racks) with unused spaces in each rack blanked out to prevent the flow of air from the hot aisles from bleeding in to the cold. The room is also configured with 208 volt power allowing for servers to be racked more densely and wires are managed overhead, avoiding the raised floors seen in other server rooms. The server room also has screened windows that can be opened to compensate for an equipment failure.

In addition to the server room features, Wharton has taken advantage of virtualizing hosts and using shared storage. The room contains approximately 219 physical servers with 154 virtual machines running on 28 of those physical hosts. If these hosts were not virtualized, the servers would fill at least an additional 4 racks as well as requiring additional heat and electricity.

Because of the hot and cold aisle arrangement, the room currently uses 15.25 Tons of cooling, Whole room Air Conditioning would require larger, more powerful units. Future plans include virtualizing additional hosts as well containing the hot aisles on the ends once the aisles are full which will result in additional energy savings.

Way to go Wharton for conserving energy by designing and maintaining such an efficient space and optimizing how servers are hosted for your constituents! For additional information about the Wharton Vance Hall Server Room and other Green Initiatives by Wharton Computing, please see their GreenIT website.

ISC Classroom Technology Services: Classroom Management System


Classroom Technology Services provides technical support for technology in Penn's Central Pool classrooms.  Recently, they implemented Extron GlobalViewer Enterprise (GVE), a classroom management system, in most of the Central Pool classrooms on campus.  Currently, 156 rooms are monitored by the system.  They plan for implementation in all 205 Central Pool classrooms by September 2013.

Although the system was installed primarily for its monitoring and remote control capabilities, the system has provided great "green" benefits as well.  Because all classes on campus end by 11:00 PM and do not begin prior to 7:00 AM, the system will shutdown all of the technology in controlled classrooms and not allow it to be turned on prior to the unlock time. This prevents equipment from being accidentally left on saving power as well as extending the useful life of equipment and consumable items such as projector bulbs and filters.  This "equipment curfew" is currently enabled in 78 of the Central Pool classrooms.

The monitoring capabilities provide a more rapid response to issues through a series of preprogrammed alerts.  It also allows CTS staff to get a better handle on when preventive maintenance is required.  GVE boasts a dashboard feature to take a look at remaining lamp hours and other statuses of the installed technology.  This monitoring has decreased downtime in classrooms, and has allowed for proactive responses to potential classroom problems.  The remote control capabilities of the classroom systems allow staff to support instructors in Central Pool classrooms from remote locations.  Equipment can be rebooted, video sources can be switched, and this allows for a rapid remote response to an instructor experiencing a systems malfunction.   

For more information on the Central Pool classroom technology, as well as information about scheduled projects, please see the ISC Classroom Technology Services website.

Information Systems & Computing: hardware recommendations

Purchasing standards have emphasized various sustainability-related criteria over the last few years. Buying efficient hardware, helps to steer Penn green. The good news is if you've been following ISC's hardware recommendations, you've been purchasing efficient systems, maybe without even realizing it. For example:

  • For FY2014, the desktop recommendations do specify 80% efficient power supplies.
  • For FY2014, the desktop recommendations for Windows machines specify Intel's Active Management Technologies, which allow more precise power management.

For more information about hardware guidance visit Penn's Desktop Recommendations page.