Green IT & the Green Gap

In going green, you enable a business to grow, diversify, and expand its use of IT, all of which have economic benefits

February 25, 2009

5 Min Read
Network Computing logo

The first in a series. Greg Schulz is the founder of StorageIO and the author of "The Green and Virtual Data Center."

Separating green hype and green IT issues is the green gap. IT organizations in general have not been placing a high priority on being perceived as "green," focusing instead on seemingly non-green power, cooling floor space, and environmental (PCFE) issues. Part of the green gap is that many IT organizations are addressing PCFE issues without making the connection that, in fact, they are adopting green practices, directly or indirectly.

Consequently, industry messaging is not effectively communicating the availability of green solutions to help IT organizations address their issues. By addressing IT issues that include power, cooling, and floor space along with asset disposal and recycling today, the by-products are economic and ecologically positive. Likewise, the shift in thinking from power avoidance to more efficient use of energy helps from both economic and ecological standpoints.

Is "green IT" a convenient or inconvenient truth or a legend? When it comes to green and virtual environments, there are plenty of myths and realities, some of which vary depending on market or industry focus, price band, and other factors. The following are some myths and realities as of today, some of which may change from reality to myth or from myth to reality as time progresses.

Myth: Green and PCFE issues are applicable only to large environments.Reality: I commonly hear that green IT applies only to the largest of companies. The reality is that PCFE issues or green topics are relevant to environments of all sizes, from the largest of enterprises to the small/medium business (SMB), to the remote office branch office (ROBO), to the small office/home office (SOHO) or "virtual office," all the way to the digital home and consumer.

Myth: All computer storage is the same, and powering disks off solves PCFE issues.

Reality: There are many different types of computer storage, with various performance, capacity, power consumption, and cost attributes. Although some storage can be powered off, other storage that is needed for online access does not lend itself to being powered off and on. For storage that needs to be always online and accessible, energy efficiency is achieved by doing more with less -- that is, boosting performance and storing more data in a smaller footprint using less power.

Myth: Servers are the main consumer of electrical power in IT data centers.

Reality: In the typical IT data center, on average, 50 percent of electrical power is consumed by cooling, with the balance used for servers, storage, networking, and other aspects. However, in many environments, particularly processing or computation-intensive environments, servers in total (including power for cooling and the equipment) can be a major power draw.Myth: Server consolidation with virtualization is a "silver bullet" to address PCFE issues.

Reality: Server virtualization for consolidation is only part of an overall solution that should be combined with other techniques, including lower power, faster and more energy-efficient servers, and improved data and storage management techniques.

Simply put, addressing PCFE issues -- or being green -- is an approach and practice for acquiring, managing, and utilizing IT resources to deliver application and data services in an economic and ecologically friendly manner for business sustainment. In going or being green by improving IT infrastructure and resource efficiency, doing more with less, and maximizing existing PCFE and energy to become more ecological friendly, you also enable a business to grow, diversify, and expand its use of IT, all of which have economic benefits.

For example, you can spend money to become green by buying carbon offset credits while you continue to operate IT resources including servers, storage, and networks in an inefficient manner. Or you can improve your efficiency by consolidating, boosting performance to do more work per unit of energy, reducing your PCFE impact and associated costs, and thus creating an economic benefit that also benefits the environment.

While businesses generally want to do what is good, including what is good for the environment (or at least put up a good story), the reality is that it's cold, hard economics -- particularly in the absence of regulations -- that dictate how businesses operate. This is where the green gap exists -- between going green to be green or to save money, as opposed to achieving and maintaining economic growth while benefiting the environment. In addressing business economics and operations to avoid bottlenecks and expenses while also helping the environment, alternatives that happen to be green are seen as more appealing and affordable.The IT industry is shifting from the first wave of awareness and green hype to the second wave of delivering and adopting more efficient and effective solutions. However, as parts of the industry shift toward closing the green gap, stragglers and late-comers will continue to address first wave themes, resulting in some disconnect for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, a third wave -- addressing future and emerging technologies -- will continue to evolve, adding to the confusion of what can be done today as opposed to what might be done in the future.

IT data centers need to leverage energy efficiency as a means of addressing PCFE issues, as well as to support and sustain business growth, including storing and processing more data. By adopting effective solutions, economic value can be achieved with positive ecological results while sustaining business growth. The bottom line is that without electrical power, IT data centers come to a halt. Rising fuel prices, strained generating and transmission facilities for electrical power, and a growing awareness of environmental issues are forcing businesses to look at PCFE issues.

Greg Schulz is the founder of StorageIO, an IT industry research and consulting firm. He has worked as a programmer, systems administrator, disaster recovery consultant, and capacity planner for various IT organizations, and also has held positions with industry vendors. He is author of the new book "The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC) and of the SNIA-endorsed book "Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)".

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights