Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Green Technology : Just Hype or Must-have?

There is a very crucial question for all we have that the "green" technology been over-hyped? Scientists throughout the world who study global warming have concluded that drastic changes in human energy-consumption are necessary to avert a crisis.

Energy use in IT, like all other technology-intensive industries, thus has been put under a microscope. Computer hardware and software vendors, sensing a financial bonanza and opportunity to appear virtuous, have flooded the market with so-called green products.

It's enough to make some IT managers dismiss green technology altogether, but even those who are concerned about the environment and their own energy costs have a tough time separating product hype from reality.

"There is a lot of hype, and it's hard to discern the difference between things that have been 'green-washed' and things that are really green IT,"
says Forrester analyst James Staten. Many vendors also like to "shine up" old products and sell them with a green tag, which makes it all the more deceiving.

IT vendors might be taking a cue from car companies that boast about selling one or two eco-friendly cars while selling millions of gas-guzzling SUVs. Dell, for example, has lots of ads talking about the greenness of their servers and PCs, Staten notes. While Dell's blade servers are very efficient, on the whole the company's "servers are not a whole lot different than other people's,"
he says.

It's not just Dell. Vendors, such as IBM and HP, are pushing green data-center service engagements that tend to push customers to standardising on either IBM or HP equipment, rather than picking the best from multiple vendors, Staten says. Vendors say, "if you want to go green, you have to go with all my products," he says. "I wouldn't point fingers at one. I think everybody's guilty of this."

Rather than looking to individual vendors, IT pros should turn to industry organizations like The Green Grid for less-biased information, he adds.

In the US for example, data centers consumed less than 1% of total US electricity use in 2000, but that number will rise to at least 2.3% of all electricity use nationwide by 2010, according to the Uptime Institute. Figures in other part of the world can be comparable.

IT departments therefore have a big responsibility," says Derek Kober, director of the BPM Forum. The organisation recently surveyed 150 IT pros and executives, and found that most IT pros are concerned about the IT department's impact on the environment -- or are at least interested in the economic benefits of being more energy-efficient.

In the survey, 86% said IT organisations have a "responsibility to substantially improve efficiency and green activities." Only 41% have any specific green plans in place, however, the survey also found. "The biggest overarching message was that despite concern and despite increasing priorities for improving the environment and greening the data center, IT departments in general are pretty far behind," Kober says.

Some IT shops view green technology as too expensive upfront, but Kober noted that many businesses save money over the long run by consolidating systems and replacing old processors with newer, more energy-efficient models. Because of these long-term savings, economic benefit rather than environmental concern is the initial driver that gets IT departments thinking about efficiency, Kober says.

Forrester's Staten shares this perception. "IT administrators define green as that rectangular dollar bill rather than something that is environmental," he says. "They don't really make a lot of decisions around what's environmentally responsible or not."