Spurred by business needs as well as environmental concerns, green IT projects blossomed in datacenters and on desktops throughout the world in 2007.
This year's winners are, in alphabetical order:
• BT Group retrofits to reduce carbon footprint
• Bryant University's datacenter built to scale efficiently
• Digital Realty Trust mines energy savings from LEED Gold
• Hewlett-Packard manages power efficiency from afar
• GM2 Logistics marries SANs and sustainability
• The Green Grid's metrics sow the seeds for IT sustainability
• Juniper Networks sheds nearly 1.3B watts
• Miami-Dade County Public Schools pinches PC power consumption
• NetApp manages to keep its cool
• One Laptop Per Child's low-power laptop empowers and inspires
• Sun Microsystems plants pods for sustainability and savings
• Verizon Wireless rings in desktop power savings
What's behind green-tech initiatives and our choices
The impetus for green IT projects -- not just those in the InfoWorld Green 15 -- run the gamut: Some companies are struggling with limited space and power to keep pace with their ever-increasing technological needs, and thus need to eliminate and consolidate machines. Some seek to put a dent in soaring energy bills through power management and improved heating and cooling. Some are committed to protecting the environment by reducing waste and cutting their carbon emissions. And some are, quite frankly, investing in green technology not for the environmental benefits -- nor necessarily the lower power bills -- but because it happens to meet another business need. The green payoff is a happy bonus.
Our goal with the InfoWorld Green 15, however, wasn't to simply reward initiatives based on what inspired them. Rather, we considered the net effects of the projects, taking into account what technologies and best practices were applied to a business goal and what the ultimate result was in terms of environmental benefits, the business implications, and the lessons learned to be applied to future initiatives.
The 6 key lessons from the Green 15
To be sure, there are many valuable lessons to be gleaned from these 15 projects. Here are the key ones.
1. Many green IT projects pay for themselves. One of the common threads among our projects was that the people behind them didn't have too much trouble convincing whomever controls the purse strings that there was an obvious, measurable ROI to be had. Sweetening the deal for companies such as Fujitsu and NetApp: generous incentives from the local utility to help fund their energy-saving projects.
2. Green IT isn't just for the enterprise. While large IT providers such as Sun and IBM made the list, so too did Bryant University, which has fewer than 4,000 students, as well as small and medium firms such as GM2 Logistics. A smaller company likely won't be able to point to hundreds of thousands of watts and dollars saved from a green-tech project -- but the business benefits, such as freeing up space for growth and saving money from lower bills and fewer hardware purchases, can be a real boon for organizations with relatively limited resources.
3. Green IT isn't just for the datacenter. While many of the Green 15 projects did take root in the datacenter, organizations such as Verizon Wireless and the Miami-Dade County Public Schools found there was plenty of waste to be cut from the desktop (and the bottom line), thanks to technologies such as power-sipping thin clients and power-management software.
4. Measurement tools are critical to green-tech success. If your datacenter cooling systems are running several degrees cooler than they need to, or if a rack of servers is on the brink of overheating, there's no way of knowing without taking measurements. For example, Hewlett-Packard can track the state of its datacenter in Bangalore from Palo Alto, Calif., thanks to the installation of thousands of smart sensors. Meanwhile, thanks to the efforts of organizations such as The Green Grid, companies have valuable metrics with which to calculate the efficiency of their facilities, a critical starting and ending point for a green-tech action plan.
5. Green IT requires input from outside the IT department. One of the valuable lessons gleaned by the leader of EMC's datacenter project was to make friends with the facilities team. Indeed, at many companies, the IT department has no clue how much energy its operation are using -- nor necessarily how much power there is available for a future project. That's something facilities can often help with. Similarly, as Juniper worked to virtualize applications used by various departments, the company created teams of reps from those non-tech departments participate in planning, thus easing the project's impact on business operations.
6. Clean energy is a complement to green tech. If you've been looking at the energy bills at your company over the years, you've very likely noticed the figures swelling at an alarming rate. Depending on where you live in the world, you've felt the sting of brownouts of unreliable sources of electricity, the lifeblood of datacenters and desktops. Hence, investments in clean-tech projects such as Fujitsu's hydrogen cell generator -- or even the alternative charging methods for the OLPC's low-power laptops -- can bring a lot of value.
We applaud this year's winners, and we thank them for the valuable lessons they've shared while making their operations more sustainable -- and the world a little greener in the process.