Cutting desktop power usage in the post-Windows XP world

18 April 2013
6 minute read
ITAM News & Analysis

Cutting desktop power usage in the post-Windows XP world

18 April 2013
6 minute read

This is a guest contributed piece to the ITAM Review by Seann Gardiner, EMEA sales director of Dell Software Group.

A looming deadline awaits…

In the IT world, there is a looming deadline that businesses of all sizes have to face up to. Windows XP is still installed across almost 40 per cent of all PCs in the world, according to statistics from Net Applications released in February 2013. The date on which support for Windows XP will end is 8th April 2014, after which time there will be no further updates for the OS. For businesses of all sizes, moving away from this operating system (OS) is an important project.

So, within the wider sphere of IT Asset Management, how does this affect energy management? To start with, any major migration project represents an opportunity to make a fresh start when it comes to the desktop. Rather than just swapping out new desktops for old ones, companies can think about how they can use existing hardware and resources, while at the same time finding ways to reduce desktop power consumption as well.

When it comes to migrating your desktops, there are plenty of different options out there. However, as part of any implementation, power management approaches should be considered too. This not only provides a reduction in energy usage, it should also provide cost savings and management efficiencies that can make a project pay for part or all of itself in the longer term.

The potential for power savings

As companies consider their approach to Windows XP, understanding power management is an obvious next step. A total of 56 per cent of companies did not manage desktop power usage in any way according to a research report by Dimensional Research, so the potential for power savings remains high.

In terms of the migration cost overhead, this is the approach that will make the least impact on the IT set-up that currently exists, as it involves like-for-like replacement of existing machines with new machines.

From a power management perspective, new machines can be specified that are more energy efficient than existing desktops or laptops while also providing much more computing power. The main benefit of this is the low impact on IT management. It does involve creating new desktop builds, but these can be done separately. The actual implementation phase is also less impactful on the end-users, as they are simply moved from one machine to another.

The cost-efficiency conundrum

The main challenge with this is that it does involve more capital expenditure on machines. There may be hardware which has been purchased relatively recently and that has not been depreciated yet, but which will require a new OS install to be completed. For many organisations, replacing all their machines outright may not be cost-efficient.

This approach involves more work from the IT team, as they evaluate which existing machines can be re-imaged and run a new operating system such as Windows 7 or Windows 8. For those machines with enough power and functional life left in them, this can turn them into useful ‘new’ devices that can remain supported.

For machines that are too old or require more computing power, replacements can be chosen and implemented. As part of this, new desktop images will have to be created and then installed on the mix of new endpoints and older hardware. From a manpower perspective, this requires more attention as there may be a more heterogeneous mix of desktop hardware and IT assets in place.

However, it is possible to reduce costs and time to re-image and install applications through the automation of systems management processes. Having a limited number of desktop images will also make long-term support easier, and therefore present opportunities to save time.

The power of desktop power management

Whichever of these two approaches is taken, desktop power management can provide some useful cost savings as part of the move. By controlling use of power by desktop machines, organisations can achieve average power consumption savings of up to 40 per cent. That equates to annual savings of 380kWh and 586 pounds of CO2 per PC, saving the organisation around £25 per PC per year, according to research by Ovum in January 2012. Given price rises in energy of about 10 per cent over the following year, this energy saving figure can be even higher now.

The need to move away from Windows XP is forcing companies of all sizes to consider their approach to the future of the desktop.

These are large-scale projects that businesses have to implement well in order to minimise impact on their employees’ day-to-day activities. However, this should not obscure the opportunity that exists to improve energy efficiency and control over desktop power consumption. Desktop power management can provide a real cost saving back to the organisation over and above anything that can be achieved through just giving advice on switching machines off overnight.

This improvement in energy reduction need not come at the expense of other IT management tasks. One of the main reasons previously given for not implementing desktop power management was the requirement to leave machines on for IT to keep them up-to-date, but this is no longer valid. The ability to automatically power up machines, update them and then power them off again has been in place for years, while patch management and automatic update scanning on machines exists as well.

The opportunity is there to reduce costs as well as improve the level of service that can be provided.

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