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What Is Green IT? Part 1: Cutting Emissions and Energy Use Enterprise-wide

How do you define "Green IT?" Sure, data center energy savings are a huge opportunity. Data centers consume more energy per square foot than any other part of an office building. But they're part of an information and services supply chain that begins with raw materials and ends with the disposal of waste. The chain includes people, the space they occupy, and the cars they drive. Along the way, the chain increasingly gobbles energy and spews greenhouse gases.

The IT department is in a unique position to change that. This is the first in a two-part series on IT's role in solving energy and environmental problems.


Start with the data center

Energy consumption in the data center is predominantly from two loads: servers and cooling. Increasing server density compounds the problem. A Gartner poll showed that more than 69 percent of data centers are constrained for power, cooling and space.

Energy-efficient servers are available from the major vendors, most notably Sun's CoolThreads technology that Sun says makes servers more efficient by a factor of five. Efficient processors from IBM, AMD and Intel are making their way into the mainstream, so your favorite server will soon be available in green.

The payoff of efficient servers is twofold. Servers that consume less energy also throw off less heat, requiring less energy for cooling. Alternative approaches, including ice storage and geothermal energy, accept the heat and focus directly on reducing the cost of cooling the data center.

Reducing cooling loads gets the attention of utilities because their summer peak demand periods are caused by air conditioning. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), one of the largest natural gas and electric utilities in the United States serving 350,000 California businesses, is offering $1,000 rebates for buying efficient servers that generate less heat.

Utilities also offer incentive programs for virtualization, which reduces the number of physical servers required. Virtualization is not new, but vendors are repositioning it now that energy costs are of concern: "IBM sees virtualization combined with power efficiency as a key differentiator in our systems design” says Rich Lechner, vice president of virtualization at IBM.

Desktop PC energy use is manageable, too

Outside the data center, PC workstations make a contribution to US companies' power bills. It's not the 100 watts they consume, it's the sheer number of them out there. The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance concluded that the average consumption could be shaved by about 25 percent through effective use of power management tools.

The state of the art in this niche is driven primarily by the demand for a set-it-and-forget-it solution. Workers don't want power management to intrude on their day, and IT doesn't want complaints to intrude on theirs. The result is network-based power management software.

Would centralized sleep control be beneficial to your network? One way to find out is to install Verdiem's Surveyor demo without turning it on. Then use the "prediction" function to calculate the potential savings of each profile. Users will be unaffected and unaware of the test, and you'll have a good idea of the effectiveness in your situation.

To go a step farther, consider deploying thin client workstations. Thin clients didn't catch on when pitched as a way to reduce hardware and maintenance costs, but rising energy costs have added an effective selling point. Thin clients use about half the electricity of a typical desktop PC.

Convergence: enabling mobility inside and outside the building

Voice over IP brought together voice and data communications for some significant benefits. This step in convergence reduced the telephony wiring infrastructure and ongoing operation cost. VoIP and phone extension mobility also made practical a concept introduced in the early 1990s: hotelling of office space.

Hotelling reduces the square footage required per employee, because workers reserve space only when they need it. For many jobs -- sales, consulting, field service -- a dedicated office need not sit vacant, consuming energy for lighting and cooling.

Telecommuting is a companion concept that is gaining favor, not only for space reductions, but because suddenly companies are thinking about the emissions caused by the commuters they employ. Telephony technologies have made it practical to operate whole departments outside the building. Call centers at companies like JetBlue hire at-home agents whose physical absence from the building is practically indiscernible to customers.

Zealous adopters of these concepts have reported a 40 percent reduction in space requirements by leveraging their communications infrastructures. They also get to claim emission reductions due to fewer commutes.

IT enables other ideas that save energy and reduce emissions. Teleconferencing -- and its newest iteration, telepresence -- have cut down demonstrably on business travel. Electronic documents and processes reduce paper and the accompanying costs of copiers, printers and couriers.

Beyond these familiar ideas lies a huge opportunity scarcely tapped by IT: the building itself.

Continue reading Part 2 of "What Is Green IT?"

"Building Systems Converge with IT: NOC, meet BOC"


A simple reading to understand green IT. Looking forward to the second article

Good. Great piece of work on IT and environment.


currently researching Green IT and fate brought me here.

about to read part 2 shortly.


Update: Contact center agents interact mostly with customers, not co-workers, and therefore easily can become full-time telecommuters.

Their commutes alone are responsible for 7,000 pounds of carbon emissions per agent per year.

I've talked with a few companies who are trying it, and they say the potential cost savings are significant.

As with other types of teleworkers, the savings are turning up in recruiting and paying talent, business continuity, and real estate.

Green IT is new and interesting concept... Thanks for sharing your views...

IBM-er John Lamb's book "The Greening of IT" reflects ideas from part 2 of this article about thinking green beyond the data center.

An excellent read. I'm looking at Green IT Consultancy, and there is a lot to it which you've mentioned above. IT can save companies lots of money and make them reduce their carbon emissions. This can be done through quick wins in simple changes to printing for example or power management as you say, improving processes generally and making sure they continously monitor the usage of their carbon footprint.

I am interested in GreenIT. I am a master student in Saxion university in the Netherlands.I am doing my master thesis based on GreenIT benefits to organizations in carbon capped environment. I found your article very useful,I am very eager to read more interesting articles to assist me in my study.I am also looking for the companies who promote it. If anyone here know any company who is willing to cooperate with me in my study please let me know.
Thank you

After reading your article on green IT, I have gained some insight into how small /medium sized companies can reduce their carbon footprint.I am presently exploring ways to influence my organisation to become more Green in ther IT and business processes.As long as there would be significant gains and reduction of cost, then it is worthwile.
Thanks .

Thanks for unique info about Enterprise-wide energy use. I was looking for relevant info since one hour, thanks for google too who referred me to this great page.
Really Unique.........Thanks again

Great blog article about this topic, I have been lately in your blog once or twice now. I just wanted to say hi and show my thanks for the information provided.

For me, laptops and netbooks are more efficient in conserving energy than desktop computers.

This is very informative! Great job! I'd like to share it and make it as a reference for my research.