DougwashburnIn many of my recent conversations with CIOs and IT infrastructure and ops professionals, I’m noticing an increasing interest in understanding how green IT will evolve.

Why do IT leaders want this vision? In the short-term, IT leaders want to ensure they’re not missing out any easy opportunities for savings they haven’t thought of yet. And over the long-term, IT leaders developing their green IT strategies want to strive for a broad scope of projects that reduce the environmental impacts — and of course costs — within and outside of IT.

Forrester expects green IT to evolve from 1.0 (“green for IT") to 2.0 (“IT for green"). 1.0 is about reducing the environmental impacts of owning, operating and disposing of IT assets; 2.0 is about using technology to enable greener business practices. My recent “TechRadar™ For I&O Professionals: Green IT 1.0 Technologies, Q2 2009” discusses 1.0 technologies in depth (InfoWorld offers a great recap of the seven technologies that we believe are poised for the most success). And a framework with examples of green IT 2.0 in action can be found in my “The Rise Of The Green Enterprise: A Primer For IT Leadership's Involvement.”

The majority of green IT initiatives are in the 1.0 world — often starting in the data center and moving into distributed IT assets — with 2.0 picking up speed:

  • Although most green IT initiatives start within the data center… According to the US Environmental Protection Agency ENERGY STAR Program, in 2006, "US servers and data centers alone accounted for 1.5 percent of total US energy consumption," and by 2011, "US energy consumption by servers and data centers could nearly double again representing a $7.4 billion electricity cost." Beyond increased energy consumption, which translates to increased carbon emissions, data centers are also running out of space, power, and cooling. In a 2008 survey of more than 300 IT professionals, The Uptime Institute found that within 12 to 24 months, 33% would run out of space, 42% would run out of power, and 39% would run out of cooling. Green IT tactics in the data center that increase utilization and improve energy efficiency — such as server virtualization and localized cooling — allow organizations to reduce their energy-related carbon emissions and costs, while freeing up space, power, and cooling capacity for the future.
  • …organizations are shifting focus to their distributed IT assets. While the data center is ripe for green IT opportunities, organizations are quickly shifting focus to distributed IT assets like PCs, monitors, printers, and phones. Why? Because more energy-related carbon emissions — and therefore costs — are likely being consumed by all of these assets outside of the data center. According to a recent Forrester survey of more than 300 IT professionals, the data center consumes 45% of total IT energy consumption — while 55% is consumed outside of the data center. Organizations are employing green IT tactics like PC power management software, which powers down PCs and monitors when not in use, or thin clients, which can be a more energy-efficient computing architecture than traditional workstations, desktops, or laptops.
  • Green IT 2.0 will pick up speed in the future. The positive environmental and financial benefits of green IT 2.0 — or using IT as an enabler of greener business — can be much more profound than just focusing on the IT asset life cycle. According to a report issued by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, greenhouse gas emissions from the IT industry will account for 2.8% of global emissions by 2020 — but if deployed in smarter ways, technology can cut global emissions by 15%. As a real-life example, international retail giant Tesco found that IT's contribution to the company's total carbon footprint is only 4% — but that IT has the enabling potential to reduce total carbon footprint by 20%. And this translates into major cost savings. Tesco expects automated building management systems to reduce electricity costs by 20% and telemetry that monitors delivery driver behavior and routing to reduce fuel costs by 17%.

By Doug Washburn

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