Executive View: Finding Eaton's Sweet Spots

Oct. 13, 2010
By leveraging cutting-edge technology, the company's Green IT initiative is striking a balance between sustainability objectives and business priorities, CIO says.

Like more and more manufacturers these days, Cleveland-based Eaton Corp. isn't shy about touting the environmental benefits of its products. The company even has devised its own symbol -- a green leaf -- to highlight its products that provide "exceptional environmental benefit."

The diversified industrial manufacturer is pushing sustainability within its own organization as well. Eaton recently launched a "Green IT" initiative aiming to increase the environmental efficiency of its information technology infrastructure, which encompasses two Cleveland-based data centers and more than 1,000 IT employees that support more than 225 Eaton manufacturing facilities and hundreds of sales offices around the world.

The company is in the unique position to leverage its own products to help pursue its sustainable IT objectives, explains Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer William Blausey Jr. For example, Eaton has installed six of its uninterruptible power systems (UPS) in its data centers, helping the company save roughly $75,000 a year in energy costs at the facilities.

When Eaton completes construction of two new 100,000-square-foot enterprise data centers in Kentucky to replace its existing Cleveland-based facilities, the company plans to take full advantage of its expanded green-product portfolio. Eaton will install four of its latest UPS models -- the 9395 -- at the new data centers, which will help the company save $75,000 in annual energy costs at each facility, according to Blausey.

William Blausey Jr.
"The challenge is to find the sweet spots ... and the beauty is that because of the technologies, they do exist." "The 9395s are recognized as the most energy-efficient UPSs in the world," Blausey says. "So as power comes into the facility, and as you load that into the data center, they can be as much as 99% efficient. That's one of our selling points with end users, but it's also a selling point for me within the company with regard to running our own data centers."

To monitor and manage energy usage at the new data centers, Eaton will use its Power Xpert architecture and Foreseer software package, "which can work in conjunction with the IT monitoring and building management solutions to provide a single dashboard view of compute, network, storage, fire, security, water, power and other building controls."

"This gives Eaton valuable insight into where the opportunities are to continuously drive efficiencies and reduce power consumption," Blausey explains. For example, "IT has a much greater power demand at the end of the month compared to the middle of the month, because of month-end processing. You could get to the point that by understanding the computer usage on your equipment, as well as the power consumption in the facility and how you're organized in a data center, you could theoretically shut down part of the facility in the middle of the month, and save the energy required to power that equipment. And with the dashboard analytical capabilities of the Foreseer software, you start to bring a lot of that information to life."

Blausey expects Eaton's recent acquisition of Wright Line LLC, a Worcester, Mass.-based manufacturer of customized enclosures, rack systems and air-flow management systems for IT data center electronics, to pay green dividends at the new facilities. Eaton plans to use Wright Line computer racking, which can reduce power consumption by the air-handling units by 30%.

While Blausey admits that Eaton's existing data centers lack the "level of sophistication" that he anticipates at the new facilities, the company has been able to achieve some laudable efficiencies at the Cleveland-based centers. By investing in VMware virtualization technology, which has enabled Eaton to remove 670 servers, the company has reduced its annual power consumption by more than 4.4 million kilowatt-hours and cut its annual carbon dioxide emissions by 2,685 metric tons.

Blausey notes that the company is careful to strike a balance between its business priorities and "moving the organization forward in an environmentally responsible fashion." It's no different in IT. Eaton justifies its investment in the VMware by the fact that the virtualization initiative "paid for itself in roughly a year" through the energy savings it created, Blausey says. And he admits that some green IT ideas -- such as using solar or wind sources to power Eaton's data centersjust aren't practical yet "given the cost-effectiveness, sustainability and reliability of those power sources."

"And so I think it's a balance between the shareholder priorities, the information technology priorities and our desire to be environmentally conscious across the organization," Blausey says. "The challenge is to find the sweet spots where you can do all of those, and the beauty is that because of the technologies, they do exist."

About the Author

Josh Cable | Former Senior Editor

Former Senior Editor Josh Cable covered innovation issues -- including trends and best practices in R&D, process improvement and product development. He also reported on the best practices of the most successful companies and executives in the world of transportation manufacturing, which encompasses the aerospace, automotive, rail and shipbuilding sectors. 

Josh also led the IndustryWeek Manufacturing Hall of Fame, IW’s annual tribute to the most influential executives and thought leaders in U.S. manufacturing history.

Before joining IndustryWeek, Josh was the editor-in-chief of Penton Media’s Government Product News and Government Procurement. He also was an award-winning beat reporter for several small newspapers in Northeast Ohio.

Josh received his BFA in creative writing from Bowling Green University, and continued his professional development through course-work at Ohio University and Cuyahoga Community College.

A lifelong resident of the Buckeye State, Josh currently lives in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland. When the weather cooperates, you’ll find him riding his bike to work, exercising his green thumb in the backyard or playing ultimate Frisbee.  

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