Microsoft integrator Avanade has developed a tool that will assist organisations looking to measure the ROI (return on investment) that can be achieved when optimising their data centres.

The ROI tool has been tagged with the catchy moniker, the 'Virtualisation Business Case Estimator' tool. Essentially it is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet containing 20 tabs and over 150 customer input fields. Avanade had similar tools for data centre optimisation in the past, but has updated those tools, and added an environmental impact element to it, in order to create this ROI tool.

"The way we engage the tool is that we sit down with the customer over a couple of days," said Toby Velte, Business Development Director at Avanade. "We remove assumptions and put in actual values for the organisation, such as total server count, cost of management overheads, energy costs etc."

"A lot of customers really don't what their costs are and where their money is going," Velte told Techworld. "But they do know the number of servers they have, the cost of administrators, the type of machines they are using etc."

"We can show them their present costs associated with powering and cooling 500 servers for example," he said. "This is what we call the un-virtualised environment. In our tool, we can then show them the effects from hardware changes, software licensing changes, the use of professional services, internal headcount reductions, the cost of removing and recycling old equipment, and we can come up with a total cost number and ROI, and the benefits to the environment by reducing their carbon footprint."

Velte, who is also an author of a book on Green IT, says that it took Avanade more than a year to develop this ROI tool in-house, using a combination of the company's experience in consultancy projects, and using "completely transparent and industry-practise calculations."

Velte said the ROI tool also allows clients to do 'what if' analysis, a feature that often allows organisations to make informed decisions about where to act (optimise) first.

Velte feels that the United States is slightly behind the UK and Europe regarding their attitudes to optimising their data centres. He thinks that many US-based IT managers still have to overcome their "server hugging issues."

He also feels that attitudes in the United States needs to change regarding virtualisation, although he admits it is a hot topic in America at the moment.

Avanade is a US-based privately held joint venture between Microsoft and IT services vendor Accenture. It was formed back in 2001, and now employs 10,000 people in 28 countries.

The company focuses on four main areas namely: data centre optimisation; desktop transformation (looking at how many PC's, laptops etc a company uses); application assessment and rationalisation (analyses how many applications a company is using to make it more streamlined); and Green IT infrastructure (where it puts infrastructure in place to allow a third party to implement a green solution, for example unified communications and so someone can then install a video conferencing solution).

Velte could not provide any pricing details for its data centre ROI tool, as it "varies tremendously" by region and situation, and is highly dependent on time.