The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Why does so much of Green IT miss the value of the Negawatt?

I've been traveling a great deal lately and the flights have given me a chance to catch up on some reading. I noticed that one of my previous concerns about Green IT still remains. Mary K. Pratt's article Gathering Green in ComputerWorld this week is an example. In it, she identified a number of low hanging fruit related to improving the environmental impact of an organization. She had all the normal ideas, but missed out on an activity that I believe should always be near the top of the list, understanding the organizations application portfolio - evaluating the applications on a value per watt basis.

There have been a number of studies which show that for every watt of power in the coal used in a power plant, only a small fraction creates value for the enterprise. Some of it is turned into heat by the transmission lines, the power supplies, and cooling. Since the applications are at the end of this long power supply chain, killing off those applications that are inefficient or generate little value will have a significant impact. This is the Negawatt concept (negative power impact or conservation).

I was talking with a CIO at a large financial institution, and one of the first things he did when he came into the role was state that if he can't find an "owner" for an application, he was going to have it turned off and the hardware decommissioned. Naturally, this took a little work, but in the end 15% of the applications that were running were turned off. Only 2 of those applications were turned back on when the real owner stepped forward.

I agree with the use of virtualization and more efficient hardware, but being focused on business value generation is part of the equation as well. The cheapest watt of power is the one that is never consumed.

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