If Green IT Sells, Who’s Buying?

A consortium of computing heavyweights gathered together last week to help keep the Green IT bandwagon going

A consortium of computing heavyweights gathered together last week to help keep the Green IT bandwagon going.

Semiconductor giant Intel Corp. and search leader Google Inc. last week teamed up with Dell Computer Corp., EDS Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp., and others to promote the Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI), a new eco-friendly IT push. CSCI aims to save energy and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by setting targets for energy-efficient computers and components, as well as by promoting the adoption of more efficient computers and power management solutions.

Last week’s effort is the latest in a series of Green IT pushes—including a $1 billion effort (dubbed Project Big Green) that IBM kicked off just last month (see http://esj.com/Case_Study/article.aspx?EditorialsID=2615). While HP, IBM, Intel, and others are pushing Green IT as the next coming of Gordon E. Moore (the famous Moore of Moore’s Law), industry watchers appear to be of two minds with respect to green IT. Analysts think it’s a salable idea whose time has come. Users, on the other hand, say their firms aren’t yet doing anything substantial to curb data center power, cooling, and real-estate costs (see http://esj.com/Case_Study/article.aspx?EditorialsID=2650).

Industry seer Gartner, for its part, thinks last week’s move by Intel and Google is an important development in the greening of enterprise IT.

"[T]his initiative will contribute to reductions in IT power consumption and carbon dioxide emissions," writes Gartner analyst Simon Mingay. "Intel and Google claim that if the targeted 90 percent efficiency for power supplies is achieved, greenhouse gas emissions will fall by 54 million tons by 2010 and energy costs by more than $5.5 billion."

On the other hand, Mingay indicates, the CSCI has a certain chest-puffing cachet to it. "[T]he initiative will spur good progress on reducing motherboard power consumption, but that improvements in power supply efficiency would have happened anyway. A significant part of the initiative centers on education and awareness, the effectiveness of which will be hard to measure," Mingay observes.

"We believe the underlying reason some of the vendors are supporting the initiative is that it gives the impression they are being proactive in tackling climate change, thus increasing their green credentials. An advantage of supporting this kind of initiative for these vendors is that it distracts attention away from some of their existing environmental challenges."

Ahead of its Time?

This jibes with the experience of many users, who say that—at this point, anyway—green IT is more marketing chimera than manifest reality."We have deployed lots of racks with blades and have seen our power and cooling costs rise substantially and our available data center floor space decrease dramatically," says Bob Richards, a vice-president and enterprise technologist with a prominent financial institution based in the Southeast. Data-center power and cooling costs keep rising and floor space keeps decreasing, Richards says, but his employer still isn’t ready to throw in the commodity server towel. On the other hand, Richards is not alone in expecting the hardware heavies to do exactly what they’re doing with CSCI and other pushes. "I am unaware of efforts to cut back on power consumption, but I do expect our hardware vendors to step up to the table in the future with innovative solutions that are more ‘environmentally friendly.’"Gartner is foremost among market watchers in beating the Green IT drum (see (http://www.esj.com/Enterprise/article.aspx?EditorialsID=2279), but other industry talking heads have also talked up the importance of Green IT.

"Enhancing energy efficiency is a subject dear to the hearts of IT vendor and customers alike. Reduced power consumption is a critical element in virtually every server and PC processor design and product roadmap, and is helping to enable new classes of mobile computing devices," writes Charles King, a principal with consultancy Pund-IT.

In this respect, King and others think a team-based approach—i.e., a strategy that yokes together different strategies and services—is the way to go. "Just as important is the growing understanding that significantly improving energy efficiency in the datacenter (or anywhere else) is not a trivial problem to be solved with ‘silver bullet’ solutions," he concludes. "Instead, it is best served by methodically pursuing and realizing incremental improvements across a range of areas and processes. In such scenarios, point products like low power processors and eco-friendly servers have their places, but they are merely players in what must be a much larger team effort if it is to succeed."

That’s a sentiment echoed by Gartner’s Mingay. "The initiative is a step forward for the industry. But the initiative, its members and the industry have a long way to go yet. Enterprises should continue to challenge the members of the initiative to demonstrate their environmental credentials."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.