IT leaders share green-tech predictions for 2009

With the down economy and shift in the political climate, experts foresee green IT gaining momentum in '09

It's that time of year again to dust of the old crystal ball and put forth some predictions as to what 2009 holds for the world of green technology. Rather than leaving the speculation to myself, however, I once again decided to tap experts at a host of organizations on how they envision green IT evolving in the year to come.

Suffice to say that no one has dismissed the green-tech movement as a mere passing fad. Both economic and political conditions (e.g. President-Elect Obama's vision of a cleaner energy economy) will continue to drive vendors to develop greener wares and organizations across the board to embrace greener practices -- be it in the name of cutting costs, meeting environmental regulations, or simply "doing the right thing."

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Green-tech predictions for 2009 follow:

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Robert Aldrich, director of datacenter solutions, Cisco

1. Green in the U.S. market related to IT will be replaced by more concise, definable concepts in the mainstream media, such as energy equivalents.

2. The first generation of IP-based energy management applications will be released from many major IT vendors.

3. IT's consumption profiles will start to be measured under new criteria with teleworking and cloud computing as the next "killer apps" (today's killer app: virtualization).

In summary, I would say that 2009 will see the emergence on a number of sleeper "greenies" who have been doing their homework diligently over the last two years. I firmly believe that many in IT want to do the right thing (in this case, the "right thing" meaning the altruistic thing) but simply lack the time and monetary incentive to do so. The issue is not so much the IT professional per se but the system by which our roles are incentivized.

I think 2009 will be about what I would call Green IT 1.0, and that is "What does Green IT mean to me? What can I do individually, professionally, above and beyond recycling at home, to feel like I'm part of the solution?" In a word, internalization and the realization that a "green" lifestyle is a choice and involves a series of educated trade-offs.

Conversely, a sound focus in a down market is to trim operating expenditure through incremental improvements to infrastructure and operations. With commercial energy market volatility, popular opinion, and geopolitical considerations at hand, the time to examine a sound energy strategy is now.

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Subodh Bapat, vice president and distinguished engineer, Sun Microsystems

1. Energy efficiency to reduce watts per compute workload will continue to be a priority in 2009, given high ROI and overall energy limitations.

2. Datacenter blueprints will continue to evolve with aggressive virtualization saving potentially between two and ten times the savings of facility efficiency measures.

3. Power management will be used to throttle down servers (and other IT equipment) when not in use, something not done effectively today.

4. High-temperature datacenters, some without any mechanical cooling systems, will be discussed more in 2009 (but very few will be implemented).

5. Collaboration will continue to drive progress forward through new standards (The Green Grid), best practices, and open tools (OpenEco.org) as we scramble to meet energy and climate goals. Sun will continue to innovate on eco in hardware (servers and network), software (including efficient coding), services (datacenter design), and partnerships.

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Lewis Curtis, infrastructure architect and advisor, Microsoft

1. 2009 and 2010 will see the start of IT organizations investigating environmental regulation strategies and increase environmental impact skill sets. Even if IT leaders don't care about environmental stewardship, they care about government regulations that impact IT operations. With the new presidential administration committing the United States to a environmental cap and trade model, the European Union promoting a datacenter code of conduct, and various government bodies promoting more oversight and environmental and energy ceilings, IT leaders will need to quickly become more cognizant with environmental regulations and work to form productive, environmentally sustainable strategies for their organizations.

2. In 2009, the economic downturn will greatly impact green IT investments. There is no doubt that organizations are reducing IT investments in light of the economic downturn. Many have argued that the reduced price of oil and economic pressures will kill the green movement. The death of the green movement in organizations and society has been greatly exaggerated. However, there will be some changes in green IT investment activity.

Environmental sustainability projects that positively impact the bottom line in the short run will be moved to the front of the line. Examples include virtualization and consolidation projects.

Environmental sustainability projects that increase costs of organizations or do not impact immediate regulatory needs will be delayed. For example, some recycling efforts (paper, e-waste projects) will probably not expand as much as originally anticipated in 2009.

3. 2009 will be the year of the green developer. Besides all of the "green is good for IT" articles, there has been a good deal of writing about building green physical datacenters as well as adopting virtualization. However, when analyzing different professionals in the IT market, developers were usually the most passionate about environmental impact. Yet, developers have the least amount of guidance on environmentally sustainable development best practices.

What are best practices to reduce energy and computational resource consumption for application design?

Sloppy code is wasteful. Not only is it slow, error prone, and often not extensible, it usually wastes energy and utilizes unnecessary computational resources. This has a significantly negative impact on the environment. However, most architects are given the "virtualize the problem away" answer for environmental sustainability.

4. In 2009, competition will increase for the green cloud. Who is the greenest cloud provider for your applications and solutions? Which cloud providers will report environmental metrics and provide concrete green operational level agreements for enterprises which you can use for verification in your own environmental reporting? Currently, we don't know how cloud providers will compete with green services. However, by the end of 2009, I predict we'll start finding out some answers.

(Read more of Curtis's 2009 green-tech predictions.)

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Dr. Albert Esser, vice president of datacenter infrastructure, Dell

In 2009, energy efficiency in the datacenter will continue to be a big focus for IT departments. Not only will improvements in overall energy consumption help reduce power and cooling costs, but applying green practices in the datacenter can also unlock hidden assets -- space and compute power -- and extend the lives of their datacenters well past 2009. Here are five things that IT managers should consider in '09:

1. Industry standards: By not locking oneself into a proprietary solution, datacenter managers can stay up-to-date on improved designs on efficiency. Leveraging industry standards allows businesses to upgrade existing systems and swap out old ones for more efficient models with ease.

2. Productivity: By looking at the big picture in terms of productivity, managers will have a better sense of what levers they can play with beyond one specific area, allowing for better management of power consumption.

3. Virtualization: Though virtualization remains one of the hottest topics, the amount of server utilization has decreased over the years. This needs to change. Businesses can significantly boost productivity and energy efficiency by increasing the number of servers being virtualized.

4. Smart cooling: One of the biggest impacts on the environment is the use of cooling in the datacenter that can be overcome by moving cooling closer to the rack, understanding where hot spots are, and utilizing air economizers that use outside air to keep servers cool.

5. IT productivity: While improving energy efficiency through power and cooling methods offers significant returns, businesses can also optimize datacenter performance by focusing on IT productivity. The greening of the datacenter can be accomplished by ensuring servers are optimally utilized in order to reduce the amount of unnecessary power being consumed.

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Steve Sams, vice president of site and facilities services, IBM Global Technology Services

This coming year, economic and budgetary concerns will impact the datacenter. With less money available, it's important that organizations get the most bang for the buck with their IT facilities and resources. By considering all options available in the software, hardware, and the virtualization realm, IT managers can run the most cost-effective, energy efficient datacenter possible.

Three things that an organization must look at during these troubled economic times are: Extending the life of their datacenter -- numerous opportunities exist throughout the datacenter to do more with less, rationalizing end-to-end datacenter infrastructure, and utilizing modular/scalable approaches when building a new datacenter. IBM is shifting from a custom to standard datacenter design business to apply these cost-cutting tools. In 2009, we will continue to see innovative implementations that will have larger impacts on an organization's bottom line results.

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Ted Samson, senior analyst, InfoWorld

1. PC vendors will continue to compete to purge their new wares of toxic chemicals, such as polyvinyl chloride and brominated flame retardant. Moreover, they will release systems that meet or exceed the forthcoming Energy Star 5.0 standard before it officially goes into effect.

2. In the name of cutting energy costs, more IT shops will take the calculated risk of powering off at least some servers when they're not in use.

3. Adoption of PC power management software -- one of the lowest-hanging green-tech fruits -- will increase in 2009, saving companies as much as $75 per PC per year.

4. Vendors will roll out more products drawing on sensors that will measure such attributes as power consumption, temperature, humidity, and utilization. The purpose is to give datacenter operators a real-time picture of how efficiently their facility is operating at any point in time and to help locate hot spots and other areas of inefficiency.

5. More new datacenters will be built to comply with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards in an effort to boost energy efficiency and earn green bragging rights.

6. More companies will start to scrutinize the inefficiency of their supply chains and, using smart tech, will find ways to streamline operations and cut expenses, including fuel and packaging costs.

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Will Swope, vice president and general manager, Corporate Sustainability Group, Intel

Economic conditions today are complex enough that companies can no longer just talk the talk; they need to walk the walk in order to save resources in 2009 and beyond. The financial turmoil will certainly put additional pressure on these decisions but, when done correctly, sustainability is creating savings not adding expenses.

There will be real pressure on IT to reduce operating costs, much of which will be achieved by implementing projects such as more efficient datacenters. We also expect to see more computing resources used to improve efficiency of all aspects of a company's operations. Computers, and computing, are fundamental to increasing efficiency in most every area that consumes carbon.

The aggregate electronics industry will face an eventual growth hurdle if we can't come to an agreement on an industry-wide approach to dealing with e-waste. E-waste is one of the unintended consequences of the amazing innovation in our industry. The issue becomes more complex as the availability of new device capabilities and categories emerge. Beyond removing toxins from consumer electronics materials, we need to quickly come up with a solution that mitigates dumping overseas and encourages reuse and recycling.

Industry leaders and government officials will determine which stimulus plans have far-reaching, positive impacts on reducing carbon footprints. We believe this objective is imperative to keep moving forward, but we also need to define long-term, systemic changes to many of the "assumed rights" regarding how we, as individuals, consume resources today. Reform in this regard along with the stimulus packages will in effect help enact real change for a better environment.

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Roger Tipley, director, The Green Grid

The incoming presidential administration is expected to bring a renewed commitment to addressing energy management, leading the U.S. government to increased collaborative efforts with industry organizations that are dedicated to advancing energy efficiency and cost savings in datacenters throughout the nation. Building upon existing energy policies, The Green Grid expects government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency, will work even more collaboratively with industry organizations to develop more effective ways to improve energy efficiency in datacenters. This sustained, shared effort between government and industry designed to improve U.S. datacenter efficiency in 2009 will also have global implications in the years to come.

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Larry Vertal, senior strategist, AMD

This coming year, U.S.-based corporate IT managers will start getting the first indications of another budget to deal with sooner rather than later: Their carbon budget.

Corporate management will start to see carbon accountability waterfall down into their planning in anticipation of the impact of federal and state legislation and regulations.

California organizations, along with those in other western states, are beginning to define what the AB32-mandated carbon cap-and-trade program means for their businesses. These companies would acquire annual allowances to emit a certain amount of CO2 and other GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions based on specified criteria. They would then have three options: 1) emit the amount of GHG emissions allowed by their permit or allowances, 2) reduce their own GHG emissions and sell excess allowances to other emitters, or 3) emit more GHG emissions by purchasing unused permits or allowances from another emitter.

President-elect Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to adopting a cap-and-trade carbon program as part of his national climate change policy shortly after the election. He went on to say the United States must reduce carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent by 2050 -- which is in line with proposals by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The good news for IT and facilities management is that the major factor in their own carbon budgets will be driven by electricity consumption. Over the last few years, many IT and datacenter operations have focused on getting an integrated view of and optimizing their energy consumption, which will become the foundation for managing carbon budgets. The challenging part will be the extent to which such carbon accounting may expand to include taking into account what is often called embedded-energy, and hence the embedded-carbon-footprint of equipment purchased.

Stay tuned, IT, it could be a wild ride.

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Doug Washburn, analyst, Infrastructure and Operations, Forrester Research

1. Expect the PC environment to steal much of the green IT spotlight away from the datacenter. Why? While the datacenter is often a first target on organizations' green IT hit list, recent data reveals that the distributed PC environment is likely to be consuming more than the datacenter. With that in mind, expect IT ops professionals to aggressively pursue PC power management best practices and invest in software to assist (e.g. 1E's NightWatchman, BigFix Power Management, Verdiem's Surveyor). Beyond the reduction in CO2 emissions, the financial savings can add up: General Electric and Dell boast savings of $2.5 million and $1.8 million per year, respectively.

2. Expect the traditional definition of green IT to be refined. Today's green IT primarily focuses on the "greening" of IT itself -- such as sourcing Energy Star PCs or virtualizing servers. While the traditional view of green IT will become pervasive, the positive environmental -- and financial benefits -- of IT as enabler of the "Green Enterprise" will be much more profound than IT just greening its datacenter or PCs. With that in mind, tomorrow's green IT will be defined much more broadly to position technology as an enabler of the "Green Enterprise." Early examples of this include Nike's "Considered Index" desktop application which empowers designers to make more eco-friendly decisions when making shoes, and UPS's "package flow" software to eliminate left-hand turns from delivery routes which saved $8.4 million in fuel costs and 32,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2007.

What do you predict will happen in the realm of green tech in 2009?

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