Enterprise Sustainability, Symantec’s Way

I met Jose Iglesias of Symantec when I hosted one of the sessions at the Green Software Unconference in August 2009.I talked to him briefly then and found out that his team was doing a lot in the green software area as well as in the overall sustainability work at Symantec. I finally had a chance to visit him recently to find out more about his team’s and Symantec’s sustainability efforts.

Jose is VP of Global Solutions and reports to the CTO, whose boss is the CEO. This position gives Jose easy access to the CEO. He wears two official hats and one informal one when it comes to responsibilities. Jose was a software developer before, and it was very easy for me as a former programmer to connect with him on the same wavelength.

Two of his official functions are to support customers in Japan and China and to provide solutions for the higher-level problems in the corporate-wide business. When his day job is over, he wears an informal hat to turn himself into “Mr. Green IT Man” to work on making Symantec and its customers greener. Although his formal functions are equally important and interesting, I encouraged him to discuss his role as Mr. Green IT Man.

Symantec recently surveyed more than 1,000 companies and found that the average company spends between $20M and $25M per year for power. Jose’s and others’ efforts allow Symantec to provide solutions that can reduce power consumption by more than 20%. Applying its own methods, Symantec has cut about $3M from its own power bill.

How did they do it? Jose gave me the following examples.

Data Centers
Usually, to ensure continued business operations, standby servers mirror a cluster of primary servers. Symantec used to use one mirror server for one primary server (1-to-1 mapping), doubling the number of servers required. Then the company developed a way to mirror n-to-1 to lower the number of standby servers without degrading SLAs. In doing so, they reduced the number of servers by two-thirds company-wide.

They also worked on storage, thought to consume 25–30% of data center power, which is significant, just below server power consumption. They take a three-step approach:

  1. Examine overall storage allocation: Find out how data are allocated in the storage devices.
  2. Make effective use: Use storage hierarchy to balance the access requirements of data to optimize energy efficiency.
  3. Pay special attention to data: Remove redundant data. By applying its software solutions, along the lines of DeDuplication, Symantec reduced storage requirements by 70%.

Also, because Symantec’s IT is centralized, its data centers are accessed by international locations as well as local ones 24x7x365. In a way, it is easy to keep power at the highest level because the power requirement never fluctuates.

Offices
In the office environment, Symantec manages and controls endpoints, the PCs and workstations on the desktop. Symantec has 17,500 employees worldwide and 38,000 endpoints. An agent is installed on each desktop to manage assets, patches, and power, which helps to make the company’s offices green in terms of power usage. In applying its own solutions to its environment, Symantec is “eating its own cooking,” according to Jose.

In general, Symantec is very active in enterprise sustainability and pledges to reduce its carbon footprint by 15% by 2012 (as compared to 2008). I asked how they became so keen on sustainability. Jose answered that it was because of both upper management’s mandates and grass-root efforts. The Mountain View campus has been LEED certified, and employees are interested in making their company sustainable. Jose believes that people today want to work for a company that is perceived as socially responsible. And thus, being green is a good recruiting tool.

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Energy Efficient Cooling for Data Centers: A Close-Coupled Row Solution
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Finally, I asked him about the software for energy efficiency. Symantec enforces best practices for software development, such as in the  Norton suites, to make the resultant software energy efficient. Because a metric to assess the energy efficiency of software is necessary, Symantec sends an expert in measurement and metrics to The Green Grid, which is working on a metric to define useful work per watt.

Like NetApp, Symantec is full of sustainability-conscious people of all ranks and titles. I’ve said before that, compared with hardware companies, software companies tend to be indifferent to sustainability.

Clearly, Symantec is an exception.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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