Recruitment firm Reed has removed most of its staff PCs as it works to become carbon neutral.

The company, which has around 300 high street recruitment offices across the UK, is replacing PCs with thin client access to a central server, in order to reduce energy usage.

It already has over 95% of its 5,000 users on thin clients and now aims reach a figure of 98% by adding most of the remaining 200 users to the system, recognising that most staff can operate without a PC. These staff have a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and connect to a server instead of using their own desktop computer.

REED: AT A GLANCE

5,000 IT users

300 branches

IT department - 30 main staff and 30 developers

Main software: Microsoft Windows, NetApp, Lotus Notes, and Oracle 11.i

VMware virtualisation

64 bit HP blade servers, AMD based

50 Wyse V30 thin clients

Thin client technology is being touted as beneficial to the environment because it removes the need for a PC at each desk. Businesses that have employed the technology claim it also enables easier central management of technology and improves security in that respect.

Sean Whetstone, head of IT services at Reed, told Computerworld UK that this was the latest of ongoing efforts after the company decided to go “eco friendly” in 2005. “Two years ago we decided to become carbon neutral, and we could see that going green often meant we would also reduce costs as we would be saving on energy.”

During a technology refresh last year, the company decided a sensible step would be to replace the majority of its PCs with access to a central server via thin clients. After assessing several options from vendors Citrix, VMware, HP and Wyse, it chose the latter’s thin client technology to connect users to HP blade servers, following a virtualisation programme.

The company has installed Wyse V30 thin client units which connect to 64 bit HP blade servers, in order to replace PCs. Around 50 blades are in use, with a hundred users on each unit. NetApp software is being used to centralise the data.

The virtualisation programme used VMware technology, and Reed has simultaneously reduced its server infrastructure from over 300 in offices and datacentres to below 60. The company is also experimenting with cooling its datacentres less than before, because as it says, “most servers are now designed to run at more normal temperatures”. Reed now keeps its datacentres at between 22 and 23 degrees, as opposed to 18 to 20 degrees originally, and is making sure hot spots are cooled more efficiently.

Cost savings were immediately noticeable, Whetstone said. As the company moved from most users having PCs and leaving them switched on overnight in order to allow security upgrades, it ended up running only blade servers instead of nearly 5,000 PCs, and only has them running during work hours. This meant it is now using 17.2 Watts of power each day over a 50 hour week instead of 180 Watts of power running all day, every day.

“It was a no-brainer to do this,” Whetstone smiled. “The management was very committed to being green anyway, and the cost arguments were very strong as we’ve started getting much lower electricity bills.” The company also provides incentives for employees to be light on electricity use, measured by electricity meters in its offices, which show the usage and the cost that is being amassed for the next bill.

Reed is also attempting to generate some of its own electricity through renewable means, also known as microgeneration.

“No board is going to argue with you on reducing electricity bills by using thin client technology and virtualising servers,” Whetstone advised other businesses. “And as long as you give extra flexibility and functionality to users, and the incentives to save electricity, then you are going to succeed.” He encouraged firms to consider replacing PCs with thin clients when they reached their refresh cycle, to avoid unnecessary disposal of PCs and unnecessary cost.

But with microgeneration, he said, it could take longer to produce a return on investment. “Perhaps we should lobby government to create incentives for businesses to do this,” he concluded.

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