Sumir Karayi, CEO at desktop management software specialist 1E, insists that automation holds key to PC turn off campaigns
BusinessGreen: How big a problem is the issue of PCs being left on over night?
Sumir Karayi: There was a recent US study that showed that 60 percent of PCs are left on any given night. Corporate America has just under 100m PCs, so that is 60m PCs being left on each night. Even if you halve that figure on the assumption that around half of desktops are typically set to hibernate when they are not in use that still means 30 million are fully on. Estimates show that equates to $2bn worth of energy being wasted a year.
How does 1E propose to tackle the problem?
We started ten years ago with a focus on reducing the cost and time of managing Windows for large organisations. We quickly realised there was this issue with being able to remotely turn the PCs on and off, and that is when we developed out first bit of software, SMSWakeUp, which allowed administrators to easily turn machines on over the network. We were working with a customer, Swiss Bank, which found that as soon as they could turn the machines on at night to patch them they realised $4m in energy cost savings. That was a real eye opener and then we started to investigate why machines weren't being turned off and what we could do to address the problem. From there we developed our NightWatchman suite which allows firms to automatically and remotely turn off PCs that have been left on.
Technically how do you turn on a PC that has been switched off?
There is a switch in the settings of the PC called Wake-on-LAN. This switch stays on when you turn off the PC, drawing just one to five watts, and listens out for a network packet called a magic packet, which turns the computer on. The technology is very simple and is industry standard, but when you scale it out to large deployments it becomes very difficult to manage without a high degree of automation.
There are plenty of solutions in this area and as you admit the core technology is pretty simple. Where is the differentiator in your products?
The issue of desktop management has three stakeholders - the CIO, who needs the machines patched, updated and rebooted occasionally; the facilities or CSR manager who wants the energy bill reduced; and the user who don't want their PC turned off when they are using it or downloading files and who don't want data lost when their machine is rebooted. In our opinion most solutions in this area only address one or two of the stakeholders. We wrote NightWatchman to address all these stakeholders, so CIOs have the ability to turn on a machine, patch, and turn it off remotely; facilities gets reporting capabilities to see how much energy is saved; and the user gets a solution that automatically assesses whether the machine is in use before turning it off and saves any files from both the previous save and the state they are in at the time of shut down.
We've all heard about concerns about the environment and energy use, but how much money can really be saved from just turning off a PC?
UK estimates claim it can save an average of £40 per year in energy costs, while Energy Star in the US estimates anything between $25 to $75 a year. Obviously there is a lot of variation depending on energy costs and turn off rates before deployment, but if you consider we are deployed on 7 million seats globally, that is a lot of money.
How much does the software cost?
We have sliding prices based on the size of the deal, but we aim for an ROI within three months. That means you can get the cost back in the form of power savings within three months, and that calculation does not include the soft savings in the form of lower support costs and enhanced security.
Isn't this a classic case of over-engineering. You are providing an automated solution for a problem that wouldn't exist if people just turned off their PCs. Isn't it cheaper and easier for firms to run a campaign to get people to turn off their PCs?
I would entirely recommend that firms have a green communications agenda. But turn off campaigns can't easily report on the savings they achieve and as a result the savings are difficult to validate. What NightWatchman gives you is a clear benchmark from which to base your energy savings. As a result we have been able to do deals where we charge based on the amount of energy saved. Also the fact is that communication campaigns only get you so far and you need an automated solution so that you can reboot remotely and ensure everything is patched correctly.
Some people maintain that turning PCs on and off daily reduces their reliability. Is there any truth in this?
It is an absolute fallacy that turning PCs off and on means they don’t last as long. It is a myth, and in fact the opposite is true as you place less pressure on the moving parts if you turn the machine off.
How do you plan to develop the product portfolio going forward?
We have just released SMSWakeUp version 5, which supports Vista and has improved scalability and enhanced reporting capabilites. We are also about to launch version 5 of NightWatchman, which also features improved reporting capabilities, including predictive reporting that allows a firm to predict the energy savings it could achieve, and also boasts Vista integration designed to exploit the new power saving technology in Vista.
And beyond that?
We are investing heavily in a solution for the datacentre and we aim to have something ready by the end of the year. There is a tendency in the datacentre to save energy by throwing out working servers in favour of new, more energy efficient models, but a lot of savings can be achieved with existing infrastructure through better power management. We want to provide a suite that reports on datacentre energy use and identifies areas of efficiency and inefficiency so you can optimise without decommissioning existing kit. We want to apply the NightWatchman logic to the datacentre environment.
So you'd have a solution that automatically turns off unused servers?
Initially we'd just focus on reporting, but from there adding the automation would be relatively easy.
Are people really going to accept a solution that turns off their servers?
The biggest issue with the datacentre is the mindset change that is required. Most datacentres are 24x7 operations with all the servers running 24x7 and people believe there is a large degree of risk in turning machines off or even just changing processor states to reduce power draw. But this is a hugely inefficient scenario and it is perfectly plausible to turn more machines off when they are not in use. We want to give IT managers the information they need to do this. It won’t come quickly and there is a long road ahead. Many businesses see it as easier to just keep buying more servers, but it is entirely possible technically to turn them off and just turn them on when they are needed. Too many people design a datacentre from the start for maximum capacity. They think "right, I need 10,000 users and I'll design for 10,000 users". They end up with 50 servers online when they could have spent the first year just running two.
About Sumir Karayi
Sumir Karayi is CEO and CTO at windows management software specialist 1E, which he co-founded in 1998.
Previously he had worked managing and supporting PC based networks at Microsoft, Lombard, Reuters and the BBC.
He holds BEng and MSc degrees from Warwick University, specialising in Electronic Engineering and IT for Manufacturing.
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