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As the push toward conserving energy gains momentum in the IT industry, managed services proponents see an opportunity to promote the model as a part of the Green IT movement. Managed services providers use Web-based tools to keep tabs on the health of their clients’ systems and networks.

With the advent of Intel’s vPro technology, managed services tools vendors, including Level Platforms, Kaseya and N-able Technologies, have been adding features that allow MSPs to remotely turn on and shut down systems, thus providing a way to reduce energy use. In addition, the remote element that is fundamental to the managed services model contributes to ongoing efforts to reduce carbon emissions from the vans that technicians use to visit customer sites, proponents argue.

"Less transportation use translates into increased savings on the total carbon footprint of the IT implementation and business utilization," according to a white paper prepared by consulting company Enterprise Management Associates for managed services vendor Kaseya.

Until now, proponents have pushed the managed services model as a way to keep IT costs down for provider and client alike, in addition to transforming the delivery of IT services from a remedial to preventive endeavor. But as energy costs rise, some have identified an opportunity to reframe the benefits of managed services in an attempt to capture more market shared.

"Whether it’s saving time, money, or in this case, energy and fuel, we’ve only scratched the surface of the long-term benefits of this managed delivery model," says Mike Cullen, vice president of sales at N-able.

Kaseya, which held a partner and customer event this week in Las Vegas, pushed the green IT angle with the release of a new module for its platform. The Kaseya User State Management module allows MSPs to remotely manage desktops to power them down when not in use and turn them on for after-hours maintenance. The technology also automates migrations to new computers, eliminating the need to manually enter user setting, policies and preferences into the new machine.

The new module brings convenience and increased productivity to MSPs and users, says Dan Shapero, senior vice president of marketing at Kaseya. Beyond that, he added, it helps businesses to conserve energy otherwise wasted by computers that are left idle either for extended times during the day or at night when users go home.

The green message resonates with Susan Labandibar, president of solution provider Tech Networks of Boston, who says the IT industry has taken a limited approach to selling environmental responsibility in designating only some products as “green.”

“What you need to do is incorporate green into everything you do,” she says.

Tech Networks, which became a Kaseya partner some three months ago, sells its line of ecologically friendly Earth-PC and Earth-Servers. Rather than giving the customer a choice, Labandibar says, the company talks about how the systems it sells will save the customer money on electricity bills.

Labandibar says power management tools such as Kaseya’s new module are a step in the right direction, but they need improvement. Power management tools typically tell you when a machine is supposed to go into hibernation, as opposed to reporting that it actually has happened.

Bob Vogel, chief marketing officer at Autotask, says Autotask’s software, which integrates with managed services platforms and automates business processes, helps MSPs operate in a green environment.

In addition to saving trees by eliminating a lot of paperwork, Vogel says Autotask allows MSPs to reduce their carbon footprint by using less fuel and optimizing travel by letting techs log time and pick up new assignments in the field through smart phones and PDAs.

MSPs also have the ability to identify “vulnerable areas in the network, which can lead to greener technology upgrades or new infrastructure solutions,” Vogel says.

While pushing the green angle in promoting managed services is far from common at this point, the logic of wrapping the model in the mantle of environmental responsibility may prove irresistible to managed services advocates. But they will have to tread carefully to make the case.

Managed services as a model until recently was viewed with skepticism by detractors who considered it little more than a buzzword. Contributing to the skepticism was a divergence of definitions attributed to the model, which created confusion.

Justin Crotty, vice president of services sales at distributor Ingram Micro, says despite the logic, he has seen no evidence of any solution providers turning to the managed services model for the express purpose of “greening” their client offerings.

“It’s a logical conclusion, but I just don’t know if you can quantify it,” he says. “I’ve seen no quantifiable evidence that that’s why people are getting into it.”

Cullen acknowledges that tying environmental considerations to managed services remains a novel approach. “Today’s MSP community isn’t leading with a ‘go green’ message, but it’s a tangible benefit that’s certainly worth noting to clients and our partners,” he says. “There’s no doubt that Green IT will continue to gain traction, especially with the growing adoption of vPro and remote environment management technology, and the industry’s focus on engineering technologies that will help conserve energy, reduce footprints and build more efficiency.”