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Green IT Pressure Is Growing

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

CIOs may be more keen to save money than save the planet, but after this year’s Copenhagen Forum the pressure to go green will get more serious, says Michael Vizard

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There’s a whole lot of evangelism for all things related to green computing these days, but a new double-blind survey from Symantec suggests IT organisations are well past the need for being educated about the need to adopted Green IT.

The survey from Symantec says that 97 percent of the over 1,000 IT executives surveyed worldwide are currently discussing their Green IT strategy, while 45 percent are already in the process of implementing one. Perhaps most significantly, Symantec said there was very little difference in the results in terms of how IT executives from North America were responding to the need for Green IT than their other colleagues around the world, which suggests that for the first time IT executives in North America are ascribing the same level of priority to Green IT initiatives as other IT executives already do around the world.

On average, the study, conducted for Symantec by Applied Research, found that IT organizations are spending anywhere from £13 to £16 million annually ($21 to $27 million) to power their data centres. More importantly, for the first time a significant portion of the IT executives surveyed said they are now responsible for electricity costs associated with running those data centres. The survey found that 83 percent of IT organisations are now either directly responsible for the data centre’s electricity bill or are cross-charged for the service.

Now that IT organisations, rather than just the people in charge of the overall facility, are increasingly responsible for the electric bill, the industry is starting to see significant changes in IT behavior. The desire to consolidate servers is increasing substantially because by scaling up, rather than scaling out, IT organisations can deploy server infrastructure that consumes less power. In addition, the ability to run more virtual machines on 16-socket servers and even mainframes means IT organisations can drive utilisation rates even higher. Finally, IT organisations are looking for a new generation of systems management tools that give them greater control over power consumption across the entire IT organisation.

Some of these issues are being addressed in the next generation of Energy Star compliant servers. But while the Energy Star programme for servers represents a noble start, it’s fairly incomplete in terms of providing guidelines for a total solution.

The Symantec survey also found that, assuming they could justify the costs by saving money on energy, two-thirds of the IT executives surveyed said they would be willing to spend 10 percent more on products deemed to have a Green IT benefit, while 41 percent said they would be willing to pay an additional 20 percent.

That may not be absolutely necessary given the current state of the economy, but it does indicate a significant evolution in the thinking of IT organisations as they focus less on the cost of acquiring products and more on the total cost of owning and operating IT.

In the meantime, IT organisations should expect to receive more pressure from the executive suite on Green IT. The United Nations’ Copenhagen Forum, coming in December 2009, is widely seen as the place where the world will finally come to terms on a replacement for the Kyoto protocols on global warming. Once that happens, you can expect that all kinds of macro economic incentives to be green will be put in place to added momentum to Green IT.

In the meantime, most IT organisations are still focused on saving money rather than the environment when it comes to Green IT, but it’s becoming clear that environment is catching up as a priority.