The Green IT Two-Step

Green IT is all about moving forward, right? Well, not quite. Most companies need to take a step backward first, and perhaps a step sideways, too. Let me explain. We're seeing rapid growth of computing resources within companies worldwide: server growth at 28% per year, storage growth at 45% per year, MIPS growth at 17% per year, and desktop growth at 1.3 times the rate of labor pool growth. What impact does this growth have on the climate? And what can IT managers do right now to reverse a negative trend?

Take a step backward

With technology continually expanding, most organizations follow conventional wisdom -- adding capacity to do more business. The word "adding" is key here. Few IT managers are looking for the "right" capacity.

The question IT should be asking is this: Do we have more or less technology than we need to effectively run and grow our business? Since the beginning of the IT-business era, "more" has always been defined as better. That's just not so.

Let's look at the financial services industry, which is the poster child for computational intensity. The average financial services company has 1.07 MIPS and 0.46 servers per $1 million in revenue. The most power-hungry firms in that sector are using 3.23 MIPS and 1.26 servers per $1 million in revenue. Those users are tapping three times the computing capacity of similar businesses and creating perhaps more than three times the carbon footprint.

What produces this large gap? Differences in underlying business processing -- the way these businesses design and deploy their systems. And this in turn is a major driver of their power consumption, cooling needs and resulting carbon footprint.

Coincidentally, those power-hungry financial services firms have a "compute cost" of more than $17,000 per $1 million in revenue. The most efficient competitor in their market is at $8,900 per $1 million in revenue. There are clearly business benefits for footprint reduction, too.

In this context, taking a step "backward" means reassessing the very basics of your entire footprint (more than just compute) before moving forward to optimize. Optimizing from the wrong starting point will likely lead to suboptimal "green" results for your company -- and for the planet.

There are other critical business reasons to take such a step backward that tie into business competitiveness.

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