NetApp Helps Government Go Green

Going green is not only the latest trend among the environmentally conscious. Energy conservation is now a top priority for the feds. And both vendors and the channel should take notice.

Just this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy released new specifications for office and imaging equipment to comply with the federal ENERGY STAR program to promote energy efficiency. Now, all accessories attached to computer products -- from an external power adapter, cordless handset, or digital front-end --must meet current External Power Supply (EPS), Telephony, or Computer specifications. According to EPA and DOE, ENERGY STAR qualified office and imaging products use as much as 60 percent less electricity than standard equipment, and over the next five years, will save Americans more than 5 billion dollars.

So how does this impact industry? CMP Channel spoke to two executives from Network Appliance to find out. Here's what Brian Raymond, senior director of Government Affairs, and Mark Weber, vice president and general manager of Federal Systems for Net App had to say about going green in government, and what the vendor is doing to support these efforts.

What's driving this increased attention on going green in government?

Weber: This not a new issue for NetApp. This is one we've been addressing for years. We're a Calif.-based company so it's in our DNA. To the government customer, this has been one of its top issues for the last 6 to 8 months. One, it's a cost issue, and two, they don't have the power [to waste]. We help consolidate what they have and find ways to be more efficiently. Primarily that means using less product. Typically in our world of storage, 30 percent of storage has data on it, so 70 percent of something you're powering sits empty. Our utilization rates are up in the 60- and 70 percent rate, thanks to our software. It's really the technology that can give you a small footprint.

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Weber: Cost and space. People are out of space. They just don't have places to add more equipment and if you look at power grids they don't have the power. So what happens -- they can't turn on the systems they need. That's a problem.

Is there anything distinctive about the government's efforts in this area?

Raymond: Back to December 2006, a piece of legislation was passed that hired the EPA to do a study for Congress on how to conserve energy in the data center. We said we need to get involved. Fast-forward six months, after a number of industry stakeholder meetings, and EPA delivered the report to Congress, citing some of our best practices.

And now, a provision in the House bill has passed [that requires] EPA to work jointly with industry to develop standards for energy efficiency. [Specifically, the data center efficiency provision establishes a voluntary, industry-led program responsible for developing efficiency information standards for data centers]. Government is saying listen -- based on the ENERGY STAR efficiency program, we need to apply the same structure to the data center as the individual components. There's a unique opportunity to work with policy makers to help shape the best way for energy to be conserved.

What standards do you hope to see?

Raymond: We're not a standards body, but my recommendation would be to encourage the partnership with industry. This is something we've done well with our own customers. They need to keep the process open and treat the data center as a whole. It's not just about storage, servers or other products. Look at the data center as a whole component when it comes to energy costs and consumption.

Weber: It's not one piece of technology that needs to be addressed. It's the whole area of best practices. How do you get there? Reduce the footprint, and don't duplicate information. Typically, if you have a piece of data, it's in your network in six to eight places. If you have software that can keep that from happening -- so data is maintained on the network when and where it should be -- that saves space.

What will we see next as far as government efforts are concerned?

Raymond: There's pending legislation that talks about standards and would incorporate energy efficiency requirements into all procurements [requirements]. That was one of the biggest recommendations from EPA -- government has to lead by example. It's necessity.

And how might this impact your partners?

Weber: We're telling partners, this is a huge competitive advantage. If it's not the number consideration, it's at least two or three. You better go in and lead with that. The issues change. We used to teach them about our products. Now the message goes beyond better, faster, cheaper to efficiency.

Raymond: We're making a difference. EPA has recognized that and so have our customers. That's the differentiator. People put a green wrapper around their technology and jump on that message but we can say with credibility that this is an issue we're working to solve.