Cool Solutions

Green Desktops?


May 21, 2007 8:35 am





Following on from Ron’s post on “green” data-centres, I thought I would share some thoughts from a desktop point of view. As the price of energy consumption rises, many organisations I have visited are considering new ways of working and managing user devices. Check out the Carbon Trust website, it makes interesting reading.

One popular question is “Should desktop machines be powered off automatically outside of normal working hours?”. I’ve spoken to a number of customers who believe that most of their users leave their desktop machines powered on overnight and at weekends. One approach to combat this is to publish guidelines and codes of practice for the user population. Another more direct approach is to use a management tool to ensure that desktops are shutdown when they are not needed.

So how can ZENworks help? ZENworks can be used to automatically power-off managed devices using scheduled actions and/or NAL applications that run utilities such as shutdown.exe. The Wake On LAN technology shipped with ZENworks allows groups of machines to be remotely powered on for lights-out distributions. I frequently see customers using this functionality to update devices in bulk during the course of a weekend.

Automatically powering off devices needs to managed very carefully though. Hell hath no fury like a user that has lost his or her data, even if they neglected to hit the save button.

What are your thoughts on desktop energy consumption? Are you using ZENworks today to help manage this more effectively?

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  1. By:Aaron

    We use Zen Workstation Policies to shutdown about 70% of our 30,000 desktops each night. Using ZenWorks Patch Management we noticed that about 70% of our machines were being left on every night. For patches to deploy silently using ZPM Q-Chain we needed machines to be restarted. An AutoIT script is run on each machine using Workstation Scheduled Events that tests the machine for a series of attributes (including an Admin bypass) and shuts the machine down. We also have a timer that gives the user 10 minutes to cancel the process. We’re also kind to the electric company randomly shutting down the computer over 5 minutes instead of all at once to prevent power problems. It’s been very successful and has saved us a considerable amount of money and time.

  2. By:Eric

    We used to have a unwritten policy that PC’s should be shutdown and powered off when users leave for the day. This seems to have backfired, because we run into the problem where after-hours virus scans, inventory scans, and OS updates will (obviously) not run if the PC’s are shutdown. So then we have the option to run all these missed scheduled tasks during login, or at the next scheduled time (when the PC is probably shutdown again, ugh).

    We’ve been looking into Intel’s vPro processor technologies, which -seems- like it might aid this situation. Microsoft is now supporting vPro with SMS, but I haven’t seen anything in regards to ZEN supporting Intel vPro yet (?).

  3. By:Andy Philp

    At the present time there is no support in ZENworks for vPro. However, with the new version being released later this year – ZENworks Configuration Management – and the new datacentre offering – ZENworks Orchestration Server – I am fairly sure that the business unit are looking into vPro technology and how it might be implemented to the ZENworks family.

    Is WOL something that can be deployed in your environment? It may be possible to bring machines up that have been shutdown by a conscientious user to perform scheduled operations and then shutdown again afterwards. If you can provide a window of opportunity for regular activities to occur, such as anti-virus and patching, it may be possible to still improve the situation.

  4. By:Andy Philp

    Very impressive. Do you allow normal users (not admin) to override the process before the event? Say for example, a user needs to leave a machine on overnight, can they run an application or request the process to be overridden?

  5. By:Eric

    The problem we have with ZEN WoL is that ZEN can only do subnet-directed broadcast wake-up packets and not unicast wake-up packets. Subnet-directed broadcast packets are not acceptable for our network environment. Any chance this will finally be rectified with the next ZEN?

  6. By:Aaron

    Very few (less than 100) machines are allowed to bypass this process. The users that require over night rendering, running a server process on a desktop, etc are allowed to bypass. We prefer not to allow anyone around this process since they won’t receive updates from ZPM up to a point where a reboot is required. The user of course must be present to cancel the process. Outside of being onsite during the shutdown or meeting a special condition every machine responds the same way. Standardization is a huge deal. That’s also how we maintain one image for all machines (over 6 year life of a model including desktops and laptops).

  7. By:Matthew Shuter

    We are not using ZenWorks to shutdown our 4000+ machines. We use a login and logoff scripts, via group policy, that creates several scheduled tasks. Logged on users are prompted to shutdown every two hours starting at 6pm, with 30 minutes to cancel the shutdown process. Logged off machines are automatically shutdown every hour starting at 6pm.

  8. By:rizrat123

    It’s definitely wasteful to leave machines on overnight. Across America it amounts to millions of dollars in wasted electricity yearly.

    -Rob, Consultant:

  9. By:tituss

    Does anyone know if the shutdowns are controlled? When the power off command is intiated, will any open apps be automatically closed down? Or does it just do a hard power off?