Business Taps Into Green OpportunitiesBy Samuel Greengard | Posted 2012-09-18 Email Print
Green IT is changing the way business and IT leaders make decisions. But companies are discovering that they’ve only begun to tap into the opportunities.
As companies focus on building a more energy-efficient infrastructure, metrics—such as The Green Grid's power usage effectiveness (PUE)—often drop markedly. In recent years, companies such as Google and eBay have frequently reduced their PUEs from above 2.0 to below 1.2.
"Many companies have become far more efficient in deploying the right number of systems, and, through virtualization, using these systems more effectively," Monroe states.
At Organic Bouquet, an online floral delivery firm that contracts with growers globally, the greening of IT has meant taking things a step further and moving systems into the cloud. A couple of years ago, the company turned to infrastructure hosting provider Rackspace so that it can scale up and down IT resources dynamically. When there's a surge in traffic—during Valentine's Day or Mother's Day, for instance—the firm can immediately dial up capacity and then drop it back down afterward.
"This approach saves a tremendous amount of energy because we don't have to operate as large a data center with excess capacity," says CEO Robert McLaughlin. He estimates that green IT initiatives have reduced the need for electricity-drawing equipment by as much as 65 percent.
The company also operates a LEED-certified headquarters building with smart systems that control cooling and lighting systems. The design of the structure allows cool air to enter from below and warm air to exit from above. "This allows us to run cooling units 10 to 15 degrees warmer," he reports.
Accenture's Rihani says that the flexibility provided by cloud computing makes perfect sense for organizations looking to go green. In many instances, he explains, cloud providers that focus on operating a data center at the core of their business manage energy requirements far more effectively than a firm that has to layer green computing on top of its business and IT demands. "Cloud providers and hosting companies think about these issues because they directly affect the bottom line," he notes.
But green computing is continuing to evolve in other ways. Rihani says that organizations must focus on various other emerging challenges, including the growing use of tablets and smartphones.
"Different devices and systems are changing power requirements, and organizations must monitor how they're using power and what's required," he says. All of this makes it necessary to drill down into systems and assess how everything from devices to applications draws power. For instance, "There is a growing focus on how software code impacts compute processes and performance," Rihani explains.
Some companies also are venturing into new territories. They are building data centers in locales that provide favorable climates for cooling. For example, Facebook announced a facility in Lulea, Sweden, last October, where it will use arctic air to keep the equipment sufficiently cool eight months of the year.
Google already operates several data centers near the Arctic Circle, and both companies, and others, have facilities located in areas of the United States, including the Pacific Northwest, where environmentally friendly hydroelectric and wind power are more plentiful. "There is a growing focus on looking at all aspects of green IT," Rihani explains.
The green movement is an issue that’s vital to countries around the world, transcending do-good companies and feel-good sustainability reports. For example, in the Republic of Ireland, it has become a core economic issue that drives investment.
Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Ireland, the country's investment promotion agency, is leveraging the island's geographic location, mild climate and abundant renewable resources to attract many major businesses, including IBM, Microsoft, Dell, Accenture, Citi, Google and Pfizer.
George Bennett, divisional manager of clean technology for IDA Ireland, says that as energy costs rise and availability issues emerge, companies are looking to build data centers and other facilities in locations where power is inexpensive and available. Ireland will cross over from being a net consumer of energy to a net exporter over the next several years, he notes. The country is particularly strong in wind energy.
"Companies are looking at renewable energy sources more favorably all the time," Bennett says. "Clean, renewable energy increasingly drives business and IT decision making.”
And Ireland is not alone. Several other countries—including Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland and Belgium—have jumped into the fray in recent years. In the United States, several states—including Oregon, North Carolina and Utah—have attracted economic investments due to favorable tax policies and an overall availability of sustainable wind, water or solar energy.