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August 26, 2008

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Dave

I've seen the same tiny figures...somewhere around 1.5% in the data center...let's say double that if you include desktops, laptops, handhelds and distributed systems. So 3%...big deal right? But as noted author David Moschella pointed out to me recently, what few are talking about is the fact that much more energy is used making IT equipment than using it. Technology manufacturing is energy intensive and Moore's Law and rapid lifecycles heighten that trend. This is a huge challenge for technology manufacturers that must be put on the table.

At the same time...to your point Chuck, using technology to attack energy consumption across the supply chain is an enormous opportunity.

So I say let's expand our thinking and go beyond the 1.5%/3% issue and address both efficiency at the point of technology creation and the innovative use of technology to measure, monitor and reduce environmental footprints. -Dave from Wikibon.org

Chuck Hollis

Fascinating perspective, and I agree.

One perspective on "energy inputs" to build IT products is that where you build the stuff (hardware, software) may be somewhere where energy is plentiful or of a more friendly nature.

Does this mean we'll see more IT manufacturing in Iceland rather than Malaysia?

Interesting thought!

Dick Sullivan

Chuck,

I think you're on the right track and this has become a regular theme of discussions I have with customers.
First get your IT house in order and stop wasting energy. Then focus on how IT can help manage and save energy across your enterprise - and the economy as a whole.

IT energy use may be only 1.5% of the total but it's still huge in kWh terms and the EPA estimates it will double in the next five years. That would make it about 120 billion kilowatt-hours at a rough cost of of more than $10 billion. Enough to power nearly 12 million average U.S. households.

The more impressive number though is in research published earlier this year by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. The study, "Information and Communications Technologies: The Power of Productivity" argues that "for every kilowatt hour of electricity that has been demanded by ICT, the US economy increased its overall energy savings by a factor of about 10.

The implication is that IT already delivers a very significant net savings across the economy - enough to power 60 million households today and 120 million in five years.

marc farley

Its going to take time, but there is enormous potential to increase energy efficiency through the use of a smart distribution grid. Its pretty clear that power distribution is an element of the infrastructure that needs significant improvements. Here's a link:
http://www.oe.energy.gov/smartgrid.htm

Kevin Moss

Chuck,

Great points. Direct consumption of the ICT industry is reckoned to be 2-3% of global emissions by most observers. There are at least half a dozen reports that have been written on the potential of the industry to reduce global emissions. The latest (SMART 2020 produced by the Climate Group and GeSi) suggests that the ICT sector could reduce global emissions by 15% by 2020 – about a five fold benefit. SMART 2020 is one of the more conservative reports so far. As Dick Sullivan notes, the ACEEE paper identifies a much bigger benefit.

I did a short comparison of the best papers at http://mosske.blogspot.com/2008/06/do-we-really-need-another-report-on.html and you can see links too all the papers on the topic there too.

Of course, none of this relinquishes our industry of the obligation to reduce our direct emissions, but it sure puts them in perspective.

Berry Zito

Interesting perspective...out of the box thinking is always refreshing. Keep it up!

Shibin Zhang

You and Dave (NetApp Dave???) made at least two logic mistakes.

1. Assume there are 10% of all passengers are going to conferences and 20% would cancel the trip after installing TelePresence, then the total number of passengers will decrease by 2%. It looks like this 2% was given credits but the bigger 1.5 – 3% wasn’t.
2. Today’s IT products can reduce global emissions. Tomorrow’s greener IT products can reduce global emissions too. Reducing global emissions can’t make green IT less important. Similarly, the manufactory power consumption has little co-relation to greener IT either.

I don’t mean that the new emission-saving technologies, like TelePresence, are not important. They are important. Saving emission is like saving money. If you save some here and some there, then you can save a lot.

BTW, green IT doesn’t mean saving energy only. It should include space save, material saving and so on.

Shibin Zhang

I had to sleep early yesterday because I had a job interview early this morning. I did not finish my comment. Following is the rest.

Since I got a degree on Earth Science and a degree on Environment Chemistry (before I got a degree on Computer Science), I was quite concern about the environmental things. IT is the only field I might be able to contribute something, although I wish I could do more (like help reducing manufactory power consumption). Green IT is also an area people haven’t paid enough attention. This is a digital age. If the volume of digital information is increasing in exponential rate and if people do not pay enough attention, then the IT Watts and IT waste (including the waste produced during manufacturing) will increase in exponential rate too. In the future all of us can see, the 1.5% will become double digits. So, please do not ignore 1.5%. It’s tiny, but it is growing.

After some self-study, I found the trick to promote green IT (or consolidation – another name I gave to green IT) is to make everyone happy. I was quite confident that I can convenience the end users if I tell them that green IT means less boxes, less wires, more robust, better performance, lower energy bill, less space, high automation (which not only means easier to use, but also means less human introduced error) and so on. However, I found it’s really hard to make the vendors happy. All they care is money, so the only way to convenience them is to show them the money. Since many vendors are still not very happy, I have to show them the money one more time:

1. “Less boxes and less wires” doesn’t mean less money. If one box or wire can do more things, you can raise the price. The end users can accept if they are paying the same money for the same performance. You can tell the end users that they can save more money from the lower operation costs.
2. “Next generation” is the driving force of replacing older equipments and you can tell the end users that green IT is the “next generation” (or another fancy word “IT V3.5”).
3. Green IT can also catalyst new technologies, new features and new products.
4. You can manage to boost the digital information volume, i.e. Web 2.0, HD TV over Internet, Business / Entertainment everywhere and so on.

If anybody has questions, we can discuss. We can also talk face to face (i.e. you invite me for an on-site interview).

Thanks,

Shibin

Shibin Zhang

Anyone still not convinced?

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Chuck Hollis


  • Chuck Hollis
    Chief Strategist, VMware Storage and Availability Business Unit
    @chuckhollis

    Chuck works for VMware, and is deeply embroiled in all things software-defined storage these days.

    Previously, he was with EMC for 18 years, most of them great.

    He enjoys speaking to customer and industry audiences about a variety of technology topics, and -- of course -- enjoys blogging.

    Chuck lives in Holliston, MA with his wife, three kids and four dogs when he's not traveling. In his spare time, Chuck is working on his second career as an aging rock musician.

    Warning: do not buy him a drink when there is a piano nearby.
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