Anyone who has followed the InfoWorld Green 15 since its inception in 2008 will recognize familiar themes among this year's winning entries -- all the more proof that the message of sustainability is proliferating across the IT landscape.
Organizations of various stripes are realizing the value of slashing waste, saving money, and improving their environmental standing, as this year's crop of green IT projects shows. Among school districts, local and state governments, upstarts and stalwarts, clearly the lesson that green IT practices provide measurable return on investment is sinking in.
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Virtualization, PC power management, videoconferencing, paperless solutions, e-waste management, and data center efficiency technologies are once again at the center of these exemplary IT initiatives.
But one striking difference about this year's batch should be noted: A wealth of third-party products and services has emerged to help companies jump-start green IT projects. Measuring and managing data center efficiency, launching large-scale recycling efforts, taking advantage of free cooling, and going paperless -- vendors are working to meet the needs of IT organizations seeking to capitalize on sustainable practices. That's good news for organizations that don't have the internal technical know-how to build such systems themselves.
That's not to say companies aren't innovating on their own to push the green envelope. Among this year's Green 15 winners, Intel's NUMA-Booster tool helped the company claim significantly higher performance from its servers. Fujitsu, meanwhile, devised an in-house tool to create a more optimal, energy-efficient layout for its data center.
Despite the increasing availability of full-featured green-tech products and services, green IT is still not fully plug-and-play. Reaping the fruits of green IT investments is still hard work, with many organizations struggling to get buy-in and participation from management and end-users alike. As with previous Green 15 projects, this year's group has proven successful in large part because they have managed to engage the whole organization to support their endeavors.
Hats off to the hard work and just rewards of this year's Green 15.
2011 Green 15 winner: Aetna
Aetna extended its paperless mandate to become the first health insurance provider to deploy electronic contract processing for physicians, hospitals, and other health care facilities.
Built on EchoSign e-signature technology, Aetna's system enables the insurance company to complete contracts with physicians without faxing or mailing stacks of paper forms back and forth for signatures.
In addition to meeting compliance, legal, and security requirements, the system has helped Aetna cut down contract processing times, from as much as three weeks to just two or three days. Users can track the entire lifecycle of contracts online, complete with access to a full audit trail.
Aetna is extending the system to enable negotiations with providers to occur electronically, thereby further reducing contract completion times and related costs.