Green IT outgrows the box

Green IT has evolved well beyond hardware components and datacenter walls

When the green IT movement kicked in a couple of years back, much of the focus was on energy efficiency at the hardware level, from chips and power supplies on up to servers and racks. Further, green tech's perceived value has been primarily relegated to the datacenter and, to a lesser degree, the desktop.

Fast-forward to the green IT landscape of 2010, and much has changed. Increasingly, companies don't regard energy efficiency as a premium so much as a standard, must-have hardware feature. Further, green IT is breaking free from its infrastructure roots, equipping organizations with data-driven tools to manage eco-oriented goals at a more granular level, both inside the datacenter and well beyond.

[ Google has applied to buy and sell energy -- but don't expect it to be your new utility company. | Did your organization undertake an innovative green-tech project in 2009? InfoWorld is currently accepting nominations for the 2010 InfoWorld Green 15 awards. ]

There's plenty of evidence out there that the market for green hardware is increasing. Demand for EPEAT-registered computers and monitors has soared over the past couple of years. Further, the recent Forrester report, "Market Overview: The State Of Enterprise Green IT Adoption, Q4 2009," finds that "most companies routinely include green criteria in their evaluation and selection of IT equipment; the percentage of respondents doing so has jumped very impressively from 25 percent in our initial survey in April 2007 to 56 percent in our latest reading in November 2009."

Notably, whereas organizations in the past have been willing to shell out extra money for greener hardware -- of which energy efficiency is but one trait -- such won't be the case for much longer, Forrester predicts: "We think that many IT buyers are now expecting ongoing energy efficiency improvements, for example, in the same way that they expect improving price/performance ratios with each succeeding generation of technology they buy."

In fact, for certain organizations, energy efficiency is no longer just an expectation but a demand. Verizon, for example, insists that come July, all of its network-hardware suppliers must use thermal modeling when designing circuit boards and cabinets in the gear they sell the company, so as to minimize heat generation that requires costly air conditioning.

Green IT has made significant strides beyond its modest origins in energy-efficient hardware components, basic power-management features, and highly simplistic tools for measuring organizations' carbon footprints. In the datacenter, more sophisticated tools and features are emerging, drawing on real-time data to give organizations a better handle on green objectives. Among them are tools from established companies such as IBM and upstarts such as SynapSense that use thermal mapping and real-time sensors to pinpoint opportunities for energy savings.

Forrester anticipates these IT management tools will continue to evolve, delivering even greater value to organizations that deploy green hardware: "[T]he manageability of those products, such as the richness of their interface with systems that monitor, analyze, and report on energy consumption, will increasingly become the basis for user preferences. For example, we expect that the management system hooks in an OS like Windows Server will be more important to companies' green IT efforts in the future than will its energy efficiency characteristics," the report says.

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