Going Green: Symantec Practices What It Preaches

Can a company that promotes its products with "green" benefits actually demonstrate those benefits in its own shop? At Symantec, the savings were, indeed, impressive.

Green is the new buzzword this year for IT, and vendors have clearly taken notice. The question is -- how well does a vendor of "green" products do to support green initiatives at its own company? To learn how one company -- Symantec -- does in this regard, we spoke to José Iglesias, vice president of global solutions at Symantec. In his position, José leads Symantec's efforts for sustainability computing, both internally and externally. José explains how the company practices what it preaches when it comes to green computing.

Enterprise Strategies: Why is green IT so important? What are the benefits an enterprise can realistically expect?

José Iglesias: Green IT will help a business reduce costs and deliver on its commitment to employees and investors to reduce its carbon footprint. Many of our customers are demanding that we disclose what Symantec is doing with respect to energy savings & carbon reduction. Depending on where you are in the world, legislation drives the behavior of the company. The net is: cost savings, enhanced branding, employee loyalty, government legislation, and demands from the company's customers.

What are the biggest misconceptions about green IT and its benefits?

Probably the biggest misconception is that companies are doing green IT only for environmental reasons. Although this is an important reason, cost savings is usually a key driver.

What was the key driver behind Symantec's strategy to drive energy efficiencies internally?

For Symantec, it was important to save money. We have made a public commitment to reduce our carbon footprint 15 percent by 2012. Greening our IT infrastructure is a large part of how we will reach our goal and is part of our larger commitment to being a socially responsible company.

Furthermore, our stakeholders, employees, customers, and investors are asking us about our environmental practices. Employees want to work for a company that sees sustainability as relevant to its business. Customers are seeking "green" solutions, andthey want to do business with suppliers that are environmentally responsible. Many of our large customers are looking to integrate corporate responsibility/sustainability into their supply chain. Investors want to invest in companies that have integrated corporate responsibility/sustainability into their business because they see this as a sign of strong management and long term outlook vs. short term outlook.

What are some of the easier ways (for example, steps companies will typically take at the beginning) to practice green IT?

Depending on the organization's situation, there is a usual progression that companies take. If their data center has run out of power, the customer has to investigate how to reduce power right away. If the data center still has capacity, the customer will usually first analyze how much energy is being used and by what equipment, then look at implementing different technologies to reduce energy usage based on what will yield the most savings.

Describe the key steps Symantec took to drive energy efficiencies across your IT infrastructure. I'm particularly interested in how you used your own products to save money.

During FY09, Symantec's IT department continued to drive efficiencies across all of our global data centers through enhancement and consolidation; virtualization; and standardization of processes, including software and hardware. The results were pretty remarkable: our companysaved over $1.6 million in electricity savings for the calendar year 2008 by using our own software to drive IT operational efficiencies. This step helped us move closer to our corporate goal in that we have already reduced 8 percent of the 15 percent target for carbon footprint reduction.

Here are some of the specific activities we completed.

IT consolidated three data center locations -- two U.S.-based co-location centers and one U.S.-managed service provider -- resulting in 45 devices being decommissioned. Only two devices were migrated to a central data center.

We reduced the Symantec Anti-Virus/Symantec Client Security footprint from 13 global servers to three centrally located servers, allowing us to reduce the support headcount from six global administrators to two local administrators.

Veritas CommandCentral, which was implemented by Symantec in 2005, provided us with centralized visibility and control across heterogeneous physical and virtual storage environments. The software enables IT administrators to find regions of inactive data and wasted space and utilize those memory assets more efficiently. Through better visibility into storage utilization, our own IT administrators found assigned pockets of storage that were never used that could be returned to production.

By identifying this available storage, CommandCentral was able to decommission 11 Hitachi 9585 storage arrays with 22 cabinets of physical storage space in 2008. In addition, Symantec migrated and consolidated data from dedicated storage islands into a pooled storage infrastructure, so we can get more out of our computer hardware while minimizing energy use and power costs. We expect to reduce drive spindles from 3,089 to 667, reducing space and power for the targeted arrays by 78 percent. Fifty-eight additional storage arrays will be consolidated, freeing up more than 100 cabinets worth of space and power.

In addition to CommandCentral, we also deployed Veritas NetBackup PureDisk to enable efficient data backup with deduplication and to reduce backup volumes for our remote office and virtual environments. The product has been deployed to date in the company's Microsoft Windows and Linux environments.

Among our remote locations, Symantec currently has 25 remote sites with 5 TB of data, with a five percent annual growth rate. The company deployed the PureDisk agent to more than a dozen sites in Symantec's EMEA region to eliminate the backup infrastructure in those locations. In the two years since deployment, the PureDisk installation enabled the EMEA sites to eliminate tape media and to decommission energy-hungry backup hardware. Administrative efficiency vastly improved, and we were able to reduce overhead and labor requirements for backup.

Deployment in the U.S. began with two sites, with an additional seven locations scheduled this year. A phased implementation of NetBackup PureDisk for the Asia/Pacific/Japan (APJ) area began earlier this year and will consolidate file servers from Symantec's Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Taiwan, and China offices in the company's APJ data center.

In addition, global data deduplication at the source, on target servers using PureDisk clients, significantly reduced our network requirements for backup of distributed servers and applications. We are currently experiencing a 35 percent data deduplication rate through the phased global deployment of NetBackup PureDisk, and expect that the percentage will increase as the deployment reaches all planned remote office locations.

One additional step: Symantec's Arizona data center became a participant in the Energy Star Data Center Infrastructure Rating Development Program led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This center also implemented a five-degree increase in its chilled water supply temperature, raising the ambient temperature and using less energy to cool the environment.

In preparation for a new 20,000 square foot data center expansion at our Arizona facility, during FY09, IT focused its thinking on the future of service delivery and how our network design could support these goals. As one outcome of this process, the expanded data center received LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in July 2009.

We help our customers reap similar benefits by offering a free analysis of their data center operations, and providing solutions based on a complete suite of energy-reducing and efficiency-improving Symantec software products and other solutions and strategies.

Describe the key steps your company took with regard to its own corporate responsibility.

Symantec sees the threads of corporate responsibility as intertwined with our corporate strategy and how we fulfill our strategy with full attention and respect to ethical operation, the environment, and commitment to positive societal impact. We formalized our corporate responsibility initiative in 2006 by becoming a signatory to the UN Global Compact and adopted the Global Compact's ten principles to protect human rights, uphold ethical labor conditions, preserve the environment, and combat corruption. In 2008, we released our first corporate responsibility report which marked our entry into a new phase of engagement with our stakeholders.

We are on a path to continuous improvement and Symantec made strong progress in all of its key corporate responsibility focus areas over the past year, and specifically achieved great strides in building out company environmental programs and initiatives.

What role did business users play in developing your company's overall strategy? What role did IT play?

The commitment started from the CEO all the way through the entire company, thanks to our corporate responsibility officer who evangelized the effort internally. IT played, and continues to play, a pivotal role in not only leading by example but also in helping achieve the targets set by the CEO. Additionally, IT plays a key role in enabling our sales teams discuss how we are obtaining significant cost and carbon savings by utilizing our own products.

How did Symantec measure the business value of its project? What are some of the other metrics you considered but did not use?

Symantec has done an OK job in measuring the business value of the project. Some aspects of the project, such as the IT energy savings, were easier to measure since we could see how much money was saved by obtaining rebates from the power companies. However, other aspects of the project are more difficult to measure, such as the positive impact to employee morale. One area that has demonstrated clear positive returns is the LEED certification of our buildings.

How have employees reacted to Symantec's strategy?

The response from the employees has been phenomenal. There have been impromptu "Green Teams" which have sprouted up throughout Symantec's regional offices. These teams have empowered themselves to do the right thing to help Symantec meet its goals. The sales teams have utilized the Symantec IT savings in their dealings with their customers. It seems like everywhere I turn there is yet another great example of employees embracing the concept. This energy and dedication among employees has not been limited to the U.S. -- we've seen interest worldwide.

What did you learn from this project?

Personally, my main lesson learned was to not underestimate the commitment and support we have received from unexpected parts of the company. There has not been a shortage of good ideas, from developers taking steps to create more efficient software by implementing new coding methodologies to facilities implementing new sensors on the vending machines to power down electricity. We've had commitment from the CEO on down.

What is Symantec's next step in its green IT initiative?

There are a number of initiatives getting underway. For example, we will continue retrofitting buildings to the LEED specification; we'll keep developing our products to continue reducing power consumption in IT; we'll consolidate data centers; and we'll continue educating the sales teams. We are also now tapping into the grant money made available from the different governments such as the U.S. federal government to fund our ongoing efforts.