25 facts you should know about green IT

What's the biggest power hog in the datacenter? Who urged the president to support green federal datacenters? Find out these answers and 23 more facts below

If you have a Facebook account, you've likely been tagged by a friend to share 25 random things about yourself. The trend has spread like wildfire; a lot of people evidently enjoy digesting bite-sized nuggets of titillating trivia about their peers. But why limit the "25 random things about ..." format to people? Allow me to present 25 random facts that you should know about green IT. Don't worry, though: I won't tag you to come up with 25 of your own.

Green IT for the datacenter

1. Ninety percent of companies with large datacenters will need to add more power and cooling within the next two years.

2. A study by McKinsey found that among a total of 458 servers at four production datacenters, 32 percent (146 in all) were running at or below 3 percent peak and average utilization. These types of zombie servers are prime candidates for unplugging to free up space and power and reduce cooling needs.

3. Speaking of which, companies can reap a 65 percent reduction in server count through virtualization -- though your mileage may vary.

[ Learn all about virtualization with David Marshalls' Virtualization Report. ]

4. Increasing the set point temperature in your datacenter by just one degree can reduce energy consumption by 4 to 5 percent (though there are caveats about going too high).

5. Datacenters produce around 0.3 percent of the world's CO2 emissions. The airline industry produces 0.6 percent, and the steel industry produces 1.0 percent.

6. According to a study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (PDF), DC (direct current) delivery systems can be 20 percent or more efficient than current AC (alternating current) delivery systems, be more reliable, and potentially cost less in the long run.

[ Read more about the benefits of bringing DC delivery systems to the datacenter. ]

7. The EPA estimated in 2006 that the typical enterprise datacenter had a PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) rating of 2.0 or higher. (Ratings below 2.0 are better for the environment.) Through equipment efficiency improvements alone, combined with current practices, the number should reach 1.9 by 2011. The EPA predicts that "state-of-the-art datacenters," using exotic energy-efficient power and cooling technologies such as liquid cooling and combined heat-and-power energy generation solutions, could reach a PUE of 1.2.

8. Google has a reported PUE of 1.21 across its six company-built datacenters.

9. The feds could save around $960 million over five years by adopting green technologies like virtualization, server consolidation, and dynamic smart cooling.

10. During a December briefing with then President-Elect Barack Obama, IBM CEO Samuel J. Palmisano recommended that Obama require that all federal datacenters go green in the next three years.

11. Among high-end servers, midrange servers, networking equipment, and storage devices, storage devices have the highest power consumption growth rate (191 percent) and the highest overall power consumption (3.2 billion kWh), according to the EPA.

12. When transforming a former underground military bunker in Uitikon, Switzerland (outside Zurich), into a data-storage facility, GIB and IBM devised a direct heat exchange between the datacenter and local public swimming pool. The pool is kept warm, for free, by the datacenter's waste heat, saving approximately 130 tons of carbon emissions in the process.

[ Learn more about how companies are putting datacenter heat waste to good use. ]

13. In 2007, Google filed a patent for a floating datacenter that would be located three to seven miles from shore. The design incorporates the Pelamis Wave Energy Converter units, which use the motion of ocean surface waves to create electricity. Google's patent envisions combining 40 or more Pelamis units to crank out 40MW of power. Beyond the free source of power, there would be no real estate or property taxes for the facility.

Green IT for PCs and peripherals

14. A PC with a screensaver going can use well over 100W of power, compared with only about 10W in sleep mode. That's why powering down PCs in your home or office makes more sense from both an environmental and cost-saving perspective.

15. Companies can save between $25 and $75 (or more) on power bills per PC per year by powering down machines when they're not in use.

16. High-efficiency PCs and servers may cost slightly more than standard systems. Climate Savers expects that price difference to be less than $30 per system, noting that the cost premium today for Energy Star desktops looks to be about $20. The group predicts that as unit volumes increase, these costs will come down to near zero. Even at modestly higher initial cost, the more efficient systems will pay for themselves through reduced energy costs.

[ Find out whether green systems are worth the price premium. ]

17. The feds could save about $330 million over five years using Energy Star-rated PCs.

18. When it was launched in 2006, EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) had three participating manufacturers and a roster of 60 registered products. The EPEAT system has since grown to include more than 30 participating manufacturers registering more than 1,000 eco-friendlier desktops, laptops, and monitors.

Green IT for you and me

19. The average office worker goes through as many as 10,000 sheets of paper per year. That about an entire tree's worth of wood pulp.

20. The average employee wastes $85 worth of printer paper and ink each year through unnecessary printing. Using double-sided printing could reduce that figure.

21. If all commuters worked from home just one day a week, 5.85 billion fewer gallons of oil would be used each year.

22. Sun reports savings of nearly $68 million in real estate costs through its Open Work telecommuting program.

[ Learn more about the benefits of telecommuting. ]

Green IT in business and politics

23. Companies focused on eco-tech services received $4 billion in venture funding in 2007, up 38 percent over 2006. Today, IT asset recovery is a $6 billion-a-year business.

24. Although e-waste accounts for only 1 to 4 percent of municipal waste, it may be responsible for as much as 70 percent of the heavy metals in landfills, including 40 percent of all lead.

25. The term "greenwashing" was coined by suburban New York environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986. He used the word in an essay in regard to the hotel industry's practice of placing placards in each room promoting reuse of guest towels to "save the environment." He argued that the hotel industry was doing little or nothing else to help the environment and that playing on guests' environmental consciences to reuse towels was merely a ploy to save money.

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