Green IT means making the most of what we've got

Green IT is not a product available off the shelf, but requires planning, policies, and precious human resources

Frequent readers of my Sustainable IT blog may have noticed a recurring them in my posts over the past three years: Much of green IT's success depends heavily on making the most out of your resources, whether you're talking about servers and PCs, CRAC units and power supplies, or watts of electricity and gallons of fuels. Cliché though they may be, adages such as "Waste not, want not" and "Do more with less" summarize the case for green IT pretty well.

Consider, for example, the numerous data center operators who have grappled with limited floor space, a tight budget, and limited amount of available power. Rather than spending valuable time and piles of ducats on an expansion or a new facility, many of these organizations have embraced green tech -- virtualization, application mapping, power management, free cooling, and more -- to make better use of what they had. The end result has been significant savings, freeing up resources for other business-critical projects.

[ Discover the bright and dark sides to EPA's energy star for data centers. | Stay tuned to green-tech developments via InfoWorld's Green IT topic center. ]

Sustainable technology has proven its cost-saving value in areas beyond the data center as well. On the desktop, companies are saving thousands of dollars cutting electricity waste with PC power management and thin clients or desktop virtualization. At the printer station and in the copy room, organizations are reaping huge savings with print management to slash paper and ink waste. Teleconferencing, videoconferencing, and other real-time collaboration tools are helping companies cut (or eliminate) the time and expense associated with travel.

Meanwhile, out on city streets and highways, companies are applying technologies such as optimization software and GPS to streamline their supply chains and reduce gasoline consumption and wear and tear on vehicles. These various applications all boil down to reaping savings by using resources as efficiently as possible.

I'm using these examples of organizations using resources efficiently as a segue way to announce that this will be the final regularly scheduled weekly installment of InfoWorld's Sustainable IT blog. Although InfoWorld recognizes the importance of green IT, we've determined that there a better ways to make use of a specific human resource -- that is, yours truly. Instead of dedicating much of my time to tracking all things green on a weekly basis, I'll cover the topic less frequently while devoting more time to other editorial tasks, such as spending more time with Test Center reviews.

I want to stress that InfoWorld does regard green IT as an important topic that warrants ongoing coverage. Companies of all sizes will continue to struggle with costly waste, and resource shortages -- as well as legislation pertaining to waste management, asset disposal, and carbon emissions. In turn, IT vendors and organizations such as Green Grid, Lawrence Berkeley Labs, AFCOM, the EPA, EPEAT, and Uptime Institute will continue to develop products, services, and practices to address those issues. I intend to keep readers abreast of these key developments.

My two final thought (for now): First, green IT isn't a passing fad. The term "green" does tend to be abused and misused to the point that its very mention may induce involuntary eye-rolling. But embracing sustainable IT products and practices can have a substantial payoff on an organizational level, and on a global level. More companies recognize it now than they did back in 2007, and as awareness increases, that trend will persist.

Second, green IT is not, nor will it ever be, simply a plug-and-play product. Yes, vendors are adding green features to their wares, such as power saving capabilities and modularity for easier upgrades and recycling. That only goes so far: After all, you could replace every server in your data center with the most energy-efficient machines on the market and still have a woefully inefficient facility if they're all running at 20 percent utilization while your CRAC units are running at 50 degrees.

Like good IT security, green IT requires constant monitoring and measuring to assess where you are and where you need to be. It requires planning, policies, and end-user training to ensure that everyone is on the same page and carrying out the grand vision.

This story, "Green IT means making the most of what we've got," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in green IT and read more of Ted Samson's Sustainable IT blog at InfoWorld.com.

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