Kent and Medway Health Informatics Service takes green IT seriously. We understand how the world’s resources are finite and how as an organisation we must try to minimise our impact on the environment – and not only our impact – we want to help our clients do this too.
In response to the plethora of Government (and other organisations’) initiatives – carbon emissions to be cut by 20%; Saving carbon, improving health; the EU’s code of conduct on data centre energy efficiency; the Climate Change Act – we have created a Sustainability Strategy.
David Ovenden, KMHIS Director, comments: “We want to shout about our commitment to reducing costs and improving efficiency, conservation of natural resources, meeting legislation, being an exemplar of best practice, as well as sharing environmentally beneficial solutions and best practice with customers.”
David continues: “We have developed key services to ensure that these commitments are met.”
Asset and applications management
Over provision of IT systems is an obvious waste of resources, whereas under-provision may lead to inefficiencies elsewhere in an organisation – for example staff queuing to use a PC or terminal will impact on productivity. KMHIS uses a Configuration Management System (CMS) and the ZEN Asset Management application to monitor the allocation and configuration of PCs and terminals in the client’s workforce. These systems are also used to provide service support and general infrastructure management. KMHIS is working towards providing this data directly to customers to allow them to rationalise their infrastructure according to need.
In addition, David says: “Consolidation and reduction in the overall number of applications will have a resultant effect on the computing resources required to run the consolidated application set. KMHIS works with clients to ensure they have conducted an audit of applications by January 2012 and to implement reduction and consolidation of applications throughout 2012.”
Many user applications are run on dedicated servers which are often under-utilised as standalone servers. Understanding the load profile and resource requirements of servers, services and applications is essential in order to optimise infrastructure architecture and drive up the utilisation of the underlying computing resources.
David says: “Virtualisation is used by many of our clients to pool the underlying physical server resources and run several virtual servers per physical server. Three years ago, we implemented this for one of our customers saving over £200,000 in the first year based on the reduction in number of physical servers required. The Trust went from 48 down to one standalone server. Not only did it minimise energy usage, which should save in excess of £6000 per year and reduce the impact on the environment, but it is a huge space saving for the Trust too.”
Whole life impact of IT systems
Whole life impact includes manufacture, assembly, distribution, implementation, operation and disposal. David says: “We work with our clients to ensure appropriate procurement and that the various rules and regulations that are in place to reduce environment impact are met. We cannot stress enough the importance to set requirements and ask questions during the procurement process about the production and transportation methods used. These can then be used to influence the purchasing decision in favour of those systems and services that have less impact on the environment.”
Data centres and hosting environments
Computing resources should be, where possible, located in facilities that have been designed for that specific purpose and where the power and cooling are optimised. Industry leading data centre facilities now operate using filtered fresh air to cool the facility with mechanical cooling only required when the outside temperature rises above 25oC. This leads to very high power usage efficiency.
David says: “KMHIS has commissioned work to look at options to determine the best way forward for data centres across Kent. We want to minimise energy usage in terms of server and network comms equipment located in these centres and also reduce air conditioning and lighting needs.”
During 2011, KMHIS worked with Medway NHS Foundation Trust to build a new data centre that met all the necessary requirements. Energy efficiency, high resilience and exceptional value for money were the drivers for the new state of the art data centre at Medway NHS Foundation Trust.
The data centre is now the primary hub for the Trust and working in conjunction with the existing IT centre to provide a high level of IT resilience for the Trust’s storage, servers and network cores. In normal use, the new and old data centres work together, but they also act as back-up for each other.
Mark Bishop, Infrastructure Manager for KMHIS at Medway FT, comments: “This data centre is by far the best we have built in Kent. Energy efficiency was an important factor in the build of this data centre. As a rule, data centres are a major source of power consumption. By having lots of specific measures in place, including energy-efficient air cooling and UPS units, a hot aisle and a higher than normal operating temperature for the room, the Trust is able reduce energy consumption.”
Benchmarking and the Green ICT Workbook
KMHIS recommends the use of the Green ICT Workbook as a standardised action recording and reporting tool. David explains: “The workbook brings together a set of agreed best practice recommendations and techniques to reduce the environmental impact of ICT. It contains actions that can be implemented immediately that reduce the environmental impact of IT systems. The workbook also acts as a tool to benchmark progress against implementing the actions. It has been designed to be used as a single source of advice and best practice relating to green IT.”
The future’s green
It’s a busy time for KMHIS – we are hoping to do so much more with our customers. David says: “We are exploring a number of concepts and technologies with our clients that can further improve our green status. It’s very exciting – there are endless possibilities for green IT in healthcare and elsewhere.”
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