With IBM's announcement on May 10th of its intention of dedicating 1 billion USD to the research of data center efficiency, and the fact that Dell is also leading the way (and has a green track record since 1998) with the Dell Energy Efficiency Research Center in Austin, Texas (http://www.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/corp/pressoffice/en/2006/2006_12_04_rr_000?c=us&l=en&s=corp) -- ones has to wonder, is green the new blue?
IBM and Dell are not the only global businesses to announce their environmentally-friendly intentions of late. Rupert Murdoch, Chief-Executive-Officer (CEO) of the News Corporation and best known as head of Fox, recently made known his intentions to reduce News Corp.'s emissions by 10 percent by the year 2012 (http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2007/05/09/murdoch/). Although no explicit mention is made in the article with reference to his companies' data centers, Mr. Murdoch is a very informed individual, and I am sure that he is aware one of the areas that is easiest to "go green" in is information technology (IT) infrastructure.
Not only are companies outside the scope of the IT sector, such as News Corp., recognizing the imperative to go green, but even utilities providers are seeing the (tinted) light. Pacific, Gas, and Electric (PG&E) of California announced Q4 2006 that they would be providing up to 4 million USD in incentives (per project site) to their customers who consolidated their data centers through virtualization (http://www.pge.com/news/news_releases/q4_2006/061108.html).
And while there may be several new companies jumping on the band-wagon of late, some global giants recognized the trend early on. Take Hewlett-Packard (HP) for example -- HP has been a supporter and provider of e-recycling programs as far back as 2003 and was recently named one of the 10 green giants by Fortune Magazine (http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/fortune/0703/gallery.green_giants.fortune/10.html). It seems poetic then that the IT industry's eco-leader would announce a major initiative in March of this year to reduce its global energy consumption by a staggering 20% by the year 2010 (http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/press/2007/070328a.html). Such a bold promise seems almost destined to be retracted, but if any company has the drive and technical know-how to see a major project through such as this one, it is the company that has blazed the trail towards a more green tomorrow from the beginning.
However, all this green goodwill begs the question -- why? Why have these billion-dollar businesses decided that being environmentally-conscious is part of their company vision. As one mysterious source once told two intrepid reporters, "follow the money." Independent hardware vendors (IHVs) such as IBM and Dell have customers who are faced with the situation of rising utilities prices, and if they do not provide energy-efficient solutions, someone else will. Being green has become a competitive edge. With its printer cartridge recycling program HP is adhering to the wisdom of a quiet little musical ensemble called "AC/DC" -- recycling "makes good, good sense." Especially if a cost analysis is performed and it is found that re-using old printer cartridges is more cost effective than manufacturing new ones. PG&E is providing consolidation incentives for two reasons -- one, if customers find that it is too expensive to house their data centers in California, then they will simply move their facilities to another location where utilities are less expensive. PG&E would rather pay customers up front to stay rather than lose them all together. The second reason is return on investment (ROI). The rate at which the demand for electricity is growing is too fast for PG&E to handle, and instead of building another generator to accommodate increased load, PG&E would rather see customers consolidate their data centers and in turn use less electricity. This is because PG&E has done the math and realizes that the ROI on a new generator would take 30-50 years to materialize and paying out incentives to existing customers so that they use less electricity is the quickest, and most cost effective, solution.
Finally, one last reason, and perhaps the most important, companies are "going green" is image. Greenpeace recently published a list of the top green companies in IT (http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/apple-guide-to-greener.pdf), and Apple was right at the bottom. Obviously this did not bode well for Apple's image, and they have been making great efforts of late to make several of their products more energy efficient and to reduce harmful emissions (http://www.apple.com/hotnews/agreenerapple/). Over the past few years the environment has received a tremendous amount of focus and concerned customers want to know if the businesses they buy from are helping or hurting the situation.
Peter Darbee of PG&E says that "The energy industry is on the brink of a revolution." (http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/fortune/0703/gallery.green_giants.fortune/6.html). Mr. Darbee is correct, there is a revolution upon us, but it is not the energy industry that will play the part of the villagers storming the gates of King Louis XVI's palace. No, rather it is the energy companies, the IHVs, and other big business alike that are in fact sitting on the throne -- but in this interpretation the royalty are inviting the commoners inside the halls of the elite, asking them what can be done to help improve the situation. It is us, it is we, it is everyone working together in concert with one another that will help usher in a revolution that will leave the skies blue and everything between the earth and above, green.
posted by: Andrew Kutz