Green Computing Summit 2008: Going green is no longer optional
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.
Part of the new green federal infrastructure is a change in the way federal leaders view computer costs. Catherine Cesnik, a Senior Program Manager in the Department of the Interior describes the purchase price of a computer today as the "tip of the iceburg" with respect to the system's real cost. The cost of powering that same system over the span of its useful life is becoming an increasingly significant portion of its real cost -- a cost that both federal agencies and energy-conscious companies are beginning to factor into their IT plans.
The inaugural Green Computing Summit was held in December of last year. This week's summit -- a one-day conference held at the Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, DC -- featured speakers from the government, academia and business communities. Prominent among the many speakers were representatives from both GSA and DOE. Keynotes were provided by John Johnson, Assistant Commissioner, Integrated Technology Service, Federal Acquisition Service, General Services Administration and David Rodgers, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy.
Conference sponsors were on hand to display a range of energy efficient technology -- high-resolution monitor/camera units for effective teleconferencing, virtualization software to create multiple virtual systems on a single physical server, power management software that intelligently turns servers on and off, printers that use dry toner (no cartridges to recycle or throw away) and more.
This week's Green Computing Summit, subtitled "Actionable Strategies for Impact Today", highlighted federal initiatives and green technology. The next summit is scheduled for December 2nd, same venue. IT managers, procurement specialists and technology professionals should put this intense one-day event on their calendars and plan on learning about environmentally-conscious yet efficient solutions to today's IT challenges.
More information about the conference is available here.