Green – The new color of IT

In the midst of the global slowdown, where every organization is looking at cutting it’s budgets to the bare minimum, one IT trend seems to have gained significant movement. As per a recent survey conducted by Symantec, in March 2009, the budgets for Green IT practices are on the rise. “One of the reasons that budgets are increasing is because the typical respondent is paying $21 to 27 million per year in electricity use,” says Jose Iglesias, Symantec’s VP of global solutions, “so going after reducing the electricity consumption will pay for itself.”

CEO of Siemens and chairman of the German “Businesses for Climate Protection” initiative Mr. Peter Löscher says “The current debate in the international community surrounding climate protection and the financial crisis is going in the wrong direction, he says, as these two issues are not opposed. While the financial crisis will result in a serious short- to medium-term disruption of the global economy, climate protection is an important means for survival and a long-term objective for the sustainable development of the world and the world economy. Investments in more environmentally friendly methods of production or in the more efficient use of energy are secure and create jobs that last.”


Green IT is the study and practice of using computing resources efficiently. The goals of Green IT are:

–          Reduction in the use of hazardous material

–          Maximize the energy efficiency during the product’s lifetime

–          Promote recyclability or biodegradability of defunct products and product waste.

Green IT has been gaining prominence ever since the 2006 Gartner Report which reported the Global Carbon Emissions attributable to ICT to be around 2% of the total which is the same as the much maligned aviation industry. What’s worse, McKinsey forecasts that this carbon footprint would triple during the period from 2002 to 2020. The Gartner report also mentions that though currently the energy costs typically comprise around 10% of the total IT budget, this is like to rise to around 50% in a few years time. Already companies such as Google claim that their energy costs exceed their server costs.

Impact of ICT devices on carbon footprint
Impact of ICT devices on carbon footprint

With energy costs constantly increasing, and the growth in the computational demands, the pain associated with facility expansion (space, power, cooling) is making Green IT a very important factor in total cost of ownership. The key driver for Green IT when the movement started in 2006 was complying with the legal requirements, but in 2009 the key driver for Green IT is cost reduction.

Drivers of Green IT
Drivers of Green IT

Green Transformation

The beauty of Green IT is that some of the measures are so basic and easy to implement that in today’s economic situation organizations are suddenly realizing how wasteful they have been over the last decade. Take a look at some of the power consumption statistics coming out of companies. Studies reveal that as much as 20% of the energy bills for IT companies can be reduced just by switching of the monitors and lights at night. Companies such as Intel are looking to reduce their datacenters from 116 worldwide to just around 20 by 2014 for a saving of around US $225 million. Server consolidation drive at Symantec brought the energy costs down by 67% with savings worth US $800,000 annually.


Organizations can take a three step transformational journey in implementing Green IT.

1)       Measure the Green Quotient: This step is measuring the current state of the organization with respect to it’s carbon footprint and it’s energy efficiency. In this stage, organizations look at aspects such as peak load power consumption, off peak power consumption, the server loads, the number of servers and server rooms.

2)       Define Green Goals: This step allows organization to take stock of the collected metrics and define the goals. In this stage, organizations define goals such as reduction in peak load power consumption, server consolidation, reduction in server rooms, reductions in data centers.

3)       Green Carpet Roll Out: This step involves the implementation of the Green IT measures through the organization and the tracking of the benefits. During this stage, organizations look to implementing steps like virtualization, digital signatures, sharing of servers etc. to reduce the carbon footprint.

Implementation Blue Print for Green IT
Implementation Blue Print for Green IT

Green Strategies

The success of Green measures lies in the consolidated effort at all levels within an organization. While establishing a corporate energy policy is essential to kick-start and direct, the promotion and acceptance of green activities at all levels is the key to the successful implementation.

Some of the more popular Green Strategies currently in implementation include Server Consolidation, implementation of Virtualization, consolidation of Data centers, complying with Industry Best Practices.


One problem with Green IT Strategies is that there is currently no clear cut global guideline or standard. ISO 14000 has been the de facto environmental standard that has been in place for some time now, but it is only now that IT companies are giving it a serious look. Green Grid is a global consortium comprising of industry heavyweights such as IBM, Microsoft, Dell, HP, Intel etc. with a mandate to increase the energy efficiency in the IT sector. The objectives of this organization include helping to create and promote adoption of metrics and standards to measure datacenter power efficiency, as well as processes and technologies that can help data centers improve performance against those metrics.

The Green Grid proposes two key metrics for data center efficiency: Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and Data Center Efficiency (DCE).

PUE is defined as:  (Total Facility Power) / (IT Equipment Power)

Total Facility Power measures the energy load of all the facilities and equipment that support the computing gear in the data center. IT Equipment Power measures only the direct load associated with computer equipment, including attached network, storage, and print devices. This formula is designed to guide data center designers and managers towards high-efficiency computing resources that require lighter support equipment.

A PUE of 1 would indicate complete energy efficiency, with all power going only to computing equipment, while a PUE above 3 would indicate room for improvement. PUE and DCE, which reports the percentage of power going to computing gear, are asserted by The Green Grid as the key metrics for Green IT initiatives that want to quantify their gains.

It is important to note that these are only recommendations from Green Grid and as yet there is no universal agreement on these metrics. Another such interesting development is Green Sigma which is a set of lean and mean Six Sigma processes meant for Green IT and is being driven by IBM.


The race is now on amongst IT companies to be the front runner in Green IT. Dell recently announced that it would become the Greenest Company in the world. Others such as IBM and HP have already announced their intention to join in the race. Have you and your organization joined this race already. If not, it is high time to start thinking about it.


Ram Narayanan Sastry
myLot User Profile

(Extracted from my article published earlier in SISL Quality Bytes.)


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