May 23, 2008, 3:33 PM — If one message stood out among the others at this week's Green Computing Summit in Washington, DC, it was that going green is no longer just good for the bottom line; it's absolutely necessary. And it's not just the tree huggers who are saying so. Prominent business executives and top ranking federal officials are leading a green revolution that promises to radically change computer technology and the way it is managed.
It may well have been skyrocketing energy prices that first got industry worried about its bottom lines and federal agencies grappling with their budgets, but concern for the escalating climate crisis was hardly an afterthought. What started as a realization that going green was the easiest way to save money has evolved into a series of federal initiatives jointly aimed at reducing energy consumption and cutting CO2 emissions.
Given industry projections of computer growth, dramatic increases in online data storage and additional floor space that could be required by expanding data centers along with the resultant power and cooling upgrades, energy issues will clearly move from problem to crisis if efforts to bring energy consumption under control are not successful.
According to EPA, corporate and governmental data centers in metropolitain areas are already driving the power grid toward gridlock. By 2010, we could have 41 million servers in the US, with less than 10% utilization. Power consumption in data centers in the US could cost $7.4 billion by 2011, compared to $4.5 billion today.
How did we get here? It is estimated that 80% of IT operations managers have no idea what computing power is costing them. Historically, those who manage technology and those who pay the utility bills share little, if any, communication. Meanwhile, idle servers typically waste in excess of 70% of the power they use. Computer users, even those with Energy Star compliant systems, may leave them on around the clock and fail to activate their energy saving features.
Solutions to the computing energy problem focus on strategies such as server consolidation and virtualization to reduce the number of servers, the use of more efficient electonics (e.g., cooler CPUs), better computer life cycle management and end user training.
Twenty-three federal agencies are meeting monthly under the auspices of the ITILOB (IT Infrastructure Line of Business) -- an unprecedented level of collaboration between agencies of the federal government aimed at improving energy efficiency in three areas: end user systems, mainframes/servers and telecommunications systems. They are looking to take advantage of commonalities across the federal government as well as define cost and efficiency measures.