Three steps to green information technology nirvana

All the talk about green IT is confusing people, says analyst Gartner. CIOs have become so overwhelmed by the mass of information available from vendors, conferences and marketing that they are no longer sure which technologies are relevant to them, when they are available or which ones they should invest in. To help enterprises navigate these turbid waters, the analyst has suggested a three-phase plan to take businesses through immediate green IT action, mid-term planning and long-term strategy.

Phase 1: the immediate issues that enterprises should focus on are:
1. Modern data center facilities' design concepts
2. Advanced cooling technologies, such as IBM’s work on water cooling shown in this video.
3. Use of modeling and monitoring software
4. Virtualization technologies for server consolidation, which VMware says could save enterprises 80% of their energy costs
5. Processor design and server efficiency
6. Energy management for the office environment
7. Integrated energy management for the software environment
8. Combined heat and power, which allows companies to use the heat generated in electricity that is normally wasted, as explained by Greenpeace

Phase 2: the mid-term phase of the plan should look at the next two to five years when many green technologies will have become mature and enterprise can build on what they have done in phase 1. Issues to focus on should include:
1. Green IT procurement, such as already being practiced by the European Union
2. Green asset life cycle programs
3. Environmental labeling of servers and other devices
4. Videoconferencing, for example telepresence has helped Cisco save $103 million in travel avoidance according to a study by Wainhouse Research
5. Changing people's behaviors
6. Green accounting in IT
7. Green legislation in data centers
8. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and IT programs

Phase 3: in the longer-term enterprise green IT strategies need to encompass:
1. Carbon offsetting and carbon trading, which was worth $64 billion in 2007 according to the World Bank
2. Data center heat recycling, such as the project being worked on by Intel
3. Alternative energy sources
4. Software efficiency
5. Green building design
6. Green legislation
7. Green chargeback

These are the steps that Gartner recommends. Do they chime with your strategy? Please use the comments form below to share what action you are taking to make your IT greener.

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.