IT Is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

New Tips to Improve Energy Management

Ways software can be used to improve overall data center energy use.

How much green, as in money, is at stake in going green? Quite a lot, apparently, if the latest projections hold up.

A pair of reports on the market for environmentally friendly IT technology hit the wires this week, both projecting huge gains in the green data center movement over the next half decade.

The more shocking numbers come from Pike Research, which predicts global investment in green technology will increase more than five-fold by 2015, spiking from today's $7.5 billion to an astounding $41.4 billion. That figure would represent about 28 percent of the IT spend across all product categories, consisting largely of advanced power and cooling solutions (46 percent) and energy-efficient IT gear (41 percent). Monitoring and management solutions make up only 14 percent of the firm's estimate for total revenue.

Meanwhile, WinterGreen Research pegs a mere doubling of the green IT market, from $31 billion in 2009 to $58.7 billion by 2016. The WinterGreen figures feature a much higher current market than Pike's, possibly due to its inclusion of a wide range of virtualization, server and storage offerings that might not have made Pike's definition of "green" technology. Among the systems that WinterGreen highlights as leading the energy-efficient wave are IBM's zEnterprise platform, as well as EMC's Ionix system and HP's Integrity server line.

The question of what exactly constitutes green technology is likely to be a troublesome one as the market unfolds. The folks at Facebook probably had no idea what a minefield they were stepping in when they announced a new energy-efficient facility in Prineville, Oregon, complete with all the latest techniques like evaporative cooling and repurposing server heat for other functions. Expectations were that it would produce a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.5, which is only a fraction off of what the Green Grid says is a perfect score.

But that's still not good enough, according to Greenpeace, which noted that the facility is located in an energy grid serviced mainly by coal-fired power plants. Greenpeace went on to create a Facebook group urging friends to lobby Facebook to become more environmentally friendly. Of course, this overlooks the twin ironies that 1) Greenpeace is actually increasing Facebook's data load and thus contributing to global warming, and 2) Greenpeace itself uses a fair amount of carbon- and even nuclear-generated electricity to run its own data centers. Of course, as we've seen across the political spectrum of late, there's no reason why facts should get in the way of honest moral outrage.

All of this bickering aside, the invasion of green technology into the data center can only produce a net benefit for the IT industry and society at large. Progress might not move fast enough for some people, but it is moving.

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