So is the greening of IT a genuine environmental movement? Or is it just a reaction to high oil prices and the global recession?
My guess is that it's a little bit of both. However, one thing is certain: the changes being made today are more than just window dressing. They are long-term, structural renovations that will continue to fuel efficiencies and give the environment a break long after short-term financial considerations are met.
Of course, those financial considerations are nothing to sneeze at. Symantec estimates that a typical large enterprise coughs up close to $27 million for electricity to run their data centers. Even if these solutions produce a 10 percent reduction in consumption -- a reasonable target by any measure -- we're talking about quite a boost to the bottom line. This is why IT funding sources like IBM Global Financing (IGF) are seeing increased calls for green technologies, particularly software and services.
That kind of interest hasn't gone unnoticed by venture capitalists. In an era where caution is the guiding principal, much of the largesse is going to green IT firms like Power Assure, which develops energy-efficient management systems. The company was recently on the receiving end of $2.5 million from Draper Fisher and Jurvetson.
Indeed, it seems like the need to go green has dovetailed nicely with those other major trends sweeping the data center: virtualization and cloud computing. As The Aberdeen Group's Bill Lesieur points out, both technologies can be easily aligned with IT sustainability goals, primarily the desire to improve hardware utilization and bolster management and oversight of available resources. Of course, some virtual/cloud technologies can be viewed as more green than others, so it's important to weigh each proposal in terms of upfront costs and ongoing operational efficiencies.
One key question in all this is how it will affect the actual job of IT management. Greener Computing's Preston Gralla says current upper level IT managers could find themselves as the CGO -- the Chief Green Officer -- if they play their cards right. Most of the top vendors are pushing green technology, so it will take quite a bit of knowledge on how best to evaluate new systems and to manage the technology once it's in place. IT workers already have the technical savvy -- now they need to expand their view to take in things like energy consumption and efficiency.
When you get right down to it, Green IT represents the confluence of motivation and results. The motivation may be to save money, but the results are beneficial to everyone.