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Green Gas has made the headlines this week - it has reached a milestone whereby it supplies 1 million UK households. According to the G...

We've asked Desmond Atkinson, with UK-based capacity planning firm Metron Technology Limited, what he thinks IT procurement people need to know about green IT, what the trends are, and whether he thinks the term is actually appropriate.

Green Buying: "Green" IT seems to be very popular at the moment and 'virtualization' is often stated as being one of the key recommendations for going green' Would you agree with this'

DA: The key consideration for most users is the ability to use virtualization to reduce server sprawl by server consolidation. This has two key environmental benefits: fewer servers require less power to run and less power to keep cool. Higher-level virtualization functions provided by some vendors such as Vmware also provide other 'green' benefits, e.g. the ability to close down quieter servers in a cluster and migrate workloads on to fewer servers until more capacity is required.

Of course significant 'green' (and consequently cost) savings can also be achieved in the desktop arena, e.g. maximising power standby states can reduce power consumption significantly.

Virtualization of course provides many potential benefits beyond saving power which is why it has become so popular e.g.:

More centralised and effective management

Rapid provisioning providing more agility to the IT infrastructure

The ability to cluster systems for effective resource control and greater resilience

Green Buying: What tips can you offer for going green that are relatively inexpensive to implement'

DA: Discuss your power usage with the utility company that supplies it. They may provide you with deals and incentives that can save you money either immediately or as you upgrade your equipment and data centre(s). When purchasing new IT equipment, treat efficient power consumption as one of your key selection criteria. Review the airflow in your data center - does the cooling air go directly to where it is most needed and then get expelled efficiently'

On the desktop most users run Microsoft Windows but may not be making best use of the power options available in the Control Panel. Useful power savings can be achieved by choosing appropriate power-down and standby options. Review what equipment is left on overnight and through the weekends - can some of this equipment be placed on standby or even powered off completely'

When costing equipment or making other changes, try always to think in broad terms. For example, be sure to reconcile immediate capital costs with potential revenue savings. Many of these steps can provide useful savings with only minor up-front costs.

Green Buying: What can an IT buyer say to convince their Directors that virtualization is a long-term way to reduce costs without sacrificing infrastructure security and stability'

DA: Virtualization is a mature and proven technology. Many organizations have already tackled the issues surrounding virtualization successfully and enjoyed major benefits as a result. Use reference visits to similar organisations to reassure your management. And put them in touch with their peers such as CFOs in those other companies to see how they view virtualization. Also, organisations such as Gartner, the Butler Group, etc. all have briefing papers and seminars that discuss these issues in depth.

Green Buying: Where do you see 'green IT' and virtualization going over the next five years'

DA: Green is already mainstream. Indeed a real danger is now one of 'greenwash,' i.e. all suppliers maintaining they are green. The next phase of green IT may well focus more sharply on the whole lifecycle cost in green terms. Regulation and legislation may seek to move hidden costs such as disposal and waste management up-front so that the initial purchase cost reflects these.

IT will continue to be seen as an enabling technology to assist green initiatives, e.g. reducing transport costs through more homeworking etc. There is every likelihood that concerns for the environment, for efficiency and for profitability will be seen as closely aligned.

As regards virtualization, it seems likely that it will become increasingly ubiquitous. The separation of the physical from the virtual seems unstoppable now at both the server and desktop level (and this includes storage as well). It will help to make the move towards cloud computing possible. It will require major evolutionary changes from companies such as Microsoft who have clearly seen how they need to innovate and move forward in the face of smaller and more agile competitors.

Green Buying: Are there any other points to make here'

DA: In a real sense 'green IT' is a misnomer. All IT is costly for the environment in terms of manufacture, transport, revenue costs and disposal requirements. However the great benefits that IT brings mean that we want to make use of this technology while minimizing those environmental costs.

Whilst server consolidation as provided by virtualization can significantly reduce environmental costs, server virtualization is insufficient on its own. The whole IT lifecycle needs to be considered. But keeping positive, profitability and 'greenness' can be achieved together.


Article Date: 04 December 2008

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