IT and facilities: Working together to drive company-wide energy cost savings

It was once the case that availability and scalability were the key drivers shaping big decisions in IT. Today, with data centres handling the dizzying amounts of data being processed and stored every day, energy consumption has become a more pressing issue for CIOs.

With data centre power and cooling costs in the spotlight, IT and facilities managers are working more cohesively together. For too long IT and facilities management have operated in silos, with only minimal collaboration and cooperation. With each ‘silo’ lacking a clear picture of the other’s behaviour, the opportunity to drive greater efficiencies and cost savings can be lost.

Now with energy costs being a key issue for organisations, new partnerships between IT and facilities are being forged in an attempt to address it.

Energy consumption on the up

The stats around energy consumption are pretty sobering. Currently, buildings worldwide represent 42 per cent of all electricity usage, and by 2025 they are projected to be the largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. IT is the main culprit of this electricity consumption – currently between 4 and 8 per cent of electricity consumption goes into IT kit; by 2030, it is forecast that this will jump to 40 per cent.

This projected growth in energy consumption paints a pretty grim picture of the impact a company’s future electricity bills could have on its bottom line.

CIOs need to see more clearly that energy management – which is all about optimising an organisation’s energy use by implementing strategies for energy efficiency, reliability and monitoring – is an absolute must-have tool within their operational arsenal.

Rather than isolate this process of energy management as an IT-only operation, CIOs need to see that facilities managers must be brought on board to get the best results and deliver energy savings right across the organisation.

Bringing IT and facilities together

The IT-facilities partnership is neither easy nor natural. Large organisations often have layers of bureaucracy that form a barrier between IT and facilities, making it difficult for the two groups to collaborate. Yet they must still collaborate.

A key step in promoting such collaboration is to acknowledge the ‘interconnectedness’ of today’s data centre. No longer physically confined to the IT room, the data centre branches out into the building and, as such, becomes the concern of both facilities and IT.

For example, as power sub-systems span the entire building infrastructure – from the service entrance to the rack – intermittent or unreliable utility power quality at the service entrance can threaten server uptime at the rack level. Low fuel in a building generator, similarly, could have a huge impact on back-up power runtime should a data centre lose utility power. On the cooling side, overcooling at the facilities level can tax the building’s overall power load, resulting in compromised availability, unnecessary costs, and wasted energy.

It becomes the responsibility of both IT and facilities to avoid such issues and achieve maximum energy efficiency gains. To get there, IT and facilities need to see the same, real-time information: This is how much electricity is being consumed, and this is who or what is consuming it. Armed with such facts, the groups can more easily work together to arrive at energy-saving solutions.

So where does this information come from? One example is Schneider Electric’s StruxureWare software, which gives a single view of all energy consumption across the building. It is relevant for both IT and facilities, and the two groups can use the insights gained from the data to make strategic decisions about energy allocations.

Change works best with C-level support

Energy consumption is not a discreet cost. It is a long-term, complex, big-ticket item that needs a strategy to manage it. Too often, companies implement software tools like StruxureWare but fail to deliver the right level of support or strategy around the tools. Policies and procedures must be developed at the same time that the tool is introduced – business transformation is required.

With technology driving the evolution of traditional facilities management, and power densities shifting across the organisation, the CIO is more important than ever.

Electricity usage is a controllable cost in a building. Yet, it is only controllable when all players responsible for its usage work together to control it. As such, the future demands a situation whereby facilities and IT managers work together to tackle the issue of energy consumption as a united front.

Paul Tyrer is vice president, Pacific of Schneider Electric IT