Green tech has flourished in the past year as vendors and customers alike have invested plenty of resources in making their products and practices more energy efficient, less wasteful, and eco-friendlier.
But is this sustainable-tech trend a mere green flash in the pan? Hardly. The flourishing world of green technology is driven by true need. Companies are running out of space and power in their datacentres, not to mention struggling with high energy costs. Business leaders, politicians, and consumers alike are becoming increasingly concerned about their impact on the environment.
Still, one wonders what crop of green-tech changes the year 2008 will yield. What follows are some abridged predictions from some IT experts out there who've been immersed in sustainable tech this past year and have a keen eye on the future. I've also added some predictions of my own. Predictions are listed in alphabetical order by last name; no favoritism here.
Bogomil Balkansky, senior director, product marketing, VMware Website: VMware Energy Savings page
With constantly increasing computing demands and rising energy costs, energy conservation in the datacentre will continue to be a very hot topic (no pun intended) in 2008.
Customers will continue to right-size and optimise their IT infrastructure driven by the economic and social responsibility imperative to save energy, but we also expect to see a new trend: datacentre energy efficiency incentives or regulations from different levels of government around the world. IT vendors will respond to this groundswell by ramping up investments in technologies that will help reduce the carbon footprint of the datacentre.
Drew Clark, co-founder and director of strategy, IBM Venture Capital Group
Website: Venture Capital Group
1. In 2008, global interest in green tech will continue to grow as competitive players emerge in unexpected geographies outside the United States. Beyond investment in alternative energy, there will be a great demand for technologies that allow energy consumers (businesses and homeowners) and producers (utilities) to monitor, manage, distribute and use energy more efficiently.
2. The greening of the datacentre will continue to be a top priority for corporations, as the cost of simply powering the centre begins to exceed the cost of the servers and devices in the datacentre. Key drivers to help reduce the overall carbon footprint and run more efficient centres will include intelligent sensors and advanced analytics to monitor and improve equipment utilisation, reducing downtime and providing comprehensive operational visibility.
Tom Clark, chair, SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) Green Storage Initiative and principal engineer, Brocade Website: Brocade greening the datacentre
1. In 2008 there will be an increasing demand for consultants and vendors to help customers re-architect their data processing and storage operations to minimise the power footprint and maximise productivity by doing more with less. Server virtualisation is an obvious candidate for achieving more productivity on less hardware, and storage virtualisation will also help achieve maximum utilisation of assets without constantly deploying more energy consuming platforms to accommodate storage growth.
2. Just as energy costs are becoming a major portion of datacentre operational expense, energy management will start to become an integral part of data management in 2008. As a datacentre administrator, I would want to monitor not only my processing efficiency and storage utilisation but also the energy consumption and heat dissipation of all the major components of my IT infrastructure. We already have the framework for this in the SNIA Storage Management Initiative (SMI-S) for managing heterogeneous environments. Tapping into energy statistics provided by disparate hardware platforms (servers, SAN fabrics, storage, tape) could give administrators the ability to monitor the overall power efficiency of their operations. These are the specific types of metrics that feed into broader datacentre energy metrics a la The Green Grid.
3. The consciousness-raising around green datacentres has been accompanied by some cynicism in the trade press ("Vendors are just trying to sell more stuff"), but the subjective motivations of any particular vendor are really irrelevant. This is not a solution seeking a problem; this is, in fact, a very real problem that will continue to worsen in 2008 and every year beyond. I think we'll see some very dramatic and perhaps unfortunate initial case studies of large datacentres that failed to react quickly enough to what is actually a pending crisis of global proportions.
Lewis Curtis, infrastructure architect and advisor, Microsoft Blog: Thoughts from the raised floor
Companies who only rely on performance per watt (PPW) justifications for capital expenditures will see their power consumption increase. The logic goes like this: Most vendors are still parading the PPW marketing plan as their green answer today. Why doesn't this work in the real world? Because it never factors in its impact on the velocity of demand as well as the impact of the environment which must now support it.
As technology capability increases, the velocity of people's demands of that technology will increase more. Therefore the demand for more servers, storage and network capability will increase. This, in turn, will increase the demand for power. Server consolidation through virtualisation and blade systems will be more pervasive in 2008. However, I predict that those who rely on the PPW model alone will see their real power bills increase in the datacentres.
Dave Douglas, VP of eco responsibility, Sun Microsystems Blog: DD's Eco Notes
1. This year, we went from awareness to action on the environment. The term "green-washing" became more popular too, as some companies were accused of putting hype before substance. With a public and media that are far more sophisticated and discerning about all things green, the demand for authentic action will increase, and the environment will benefit. The focus in 2008 will be about what we can actually do to reduce our impact - or better yet, what we've already done.
2. Every day we're more and more reliant on a growing web of Internet-based social and business services. Datacentres that support these services are growing at high rates, but the power grid isn't keeping up. The probability is rising that 2008 will bring a high-impact power outage that will affect consumers in new and totally unexpected ways.
Rudy Kraus, CEO, Validus DC Systems Website: Validus
One answer to the growing IT energy crisis may come from an unlikely source in 2008, but one that has its roots in Thomas Edison's work from 100 years ago: direct current (DC) power. When DC is properly harnessed with today's technology, it can provide energy to data centres with 10 to 20 percent more efficiency, according to Lawrence Berkeley Lab Research. Against the snowballing IT energy crisis, those types of figures could benefit IT processes, CSR initiatives, and most importantly, the bottom line.
Paul Marcoux, vice president of engineering, Cisco development operations, and "green guru," Cisco Website: Cisco corporate social responsibility page
1. Heading into 2008, companies will continue to emphasise their social responsibility behaviour, creating an environment for industry leaders to combine the power of innovation with collaboration to create the most sustainable model for addressing global climate change. As a result, across business and IT functions, we'll begin to see industry standards and green languages emerge in 2008 to foster greater communication and collaboration.
2. If you can't measure it; you can't manage it. In 2008, we'll see a slew of technologies developed to offer real-time monitoring intelligence to measure energy consumption for products. By 2009, there will be few products available that cannot be monitored for energy consumption.
Christina Page, director of climate and energy, Yahoo Website: Yahoo Green
Yahoo! expects to see increased activity in the voluntary carbon credit market, especially in the United States with the launch of the Green Exchange in Q1 2008. As more and more organisations choose to offset their carbon footprints, companies will be increasingly motivated to think seriously about their energy consumption, and take strong action to become more efficient across operations.
Ted Samson, senior analyst and Sustainable IT blogger, InfoWorld Blog: Sustainable IT
1. Expect more organisations to follow the lead of companies such as HP and Wal-Mart in scrutinising the efficiency, wastefulness, and eco-friendly practices of vendors in their supply chain.
2. Companies will continue to push the envelope in developing greener datacentres. They won't stop at simply employing energy-efficient hardware and cooling systems and embracing general datacentre-design best practices. They'll follow in the footsteps of companies such as Digital Realty in developing buildings that adhere to LEED. Like Google and Fujitsu, they'll install alternative-energy systems including solar panels and others. They'll raise the bar in terms of datacentre design, as did Sun with its innovative modular, forward-looking approach. They'll include eco-friendly features that have little or nothing to do with energy efficiency or cutting costs, as we saw with Unisys's datacentre that includes the conversion of 19 acres adjacent to the facility to natural prairie containing wild grasses and flowers.
3. Expect more companies to locate datacentre operations in countries outside the U.S. where energy costs are lower - and perhaps environmental standards aren't as stringent.
4. The "energy efficiency credit" or white tag exchange will gain some momentum, though likely won't really take off until 2009 when there are stricter mandates for companies to reduce the carbon emissions.
Dave Stangis, director of corporate responsibility, Intel Blog: [email protected]
1. Green will move from a specific product offering to a brand offering -- and be rewarded by Wall Street.
2. Consumer electronic brands will look to their suppliers to help position their products as "more green."
3. Technology solutions will become centre stage in solving the climate-change challenge.
4. Technology will be the key in driving down the costs of alternative energy.
5. Green building design will finally transition from novelty to expectation.
Pat Tiernan, VP of social and environmental responsibility, HP Website: HP's environmental sustainability page
Green IT will have a more significant focus as we move into 2008. This includes designing products with the entire lifecycle in mind. In addition to energy use, companies will be more vigilant in implementing plans for disposal, reuse, and recycling. Green strategy will also become an argument for the optimisation of IT resources, as well as for saving money, with more energy-efficient products.
Steve Vassallo, principal, Cleantech practice at Foundation Capital
Website: Cleantech site
1. Water becomes more critical than oil. Major water shortages will begin to raise awareness and investment dollars into the sector.
2. We'll see a major shift in the awareness (and communication) of companies regarding their carbon footprints and energy consumption. Fortune 100 companies will bring discussion of carbon footprints into the mainstream business conversation.
Larry Vertal, senior strategist for AMD Green, AMD Website: AMD green
EPA research shows that with relatively minor efforts by datacentre managers, including turning on already available power management features, enabling higher rates of resource consolidation, shutting off unused servers and improving infrastructure operations, we could save 20 percent of datacentre power. That's equal to cutting down the growth of our new power resources demanded by datacentres by half by 2010, or five 1,000MW power plants. So, while performance proudly held the top spot as the chief concern of all IT managers for a long time, it now needs to make room for performance-per-watt. Look for 2008 to be the year where the rubber meets the road in green computing, and energy efficiency takes over as the No. 1 priority for the IT manager.
Hu Yoshida, CTO, Hitachi Data Systems Blog: Hu Yoshida's blog
1. The green-tech movement will drive a growing awareness that the storage of data has become highly inefficient, with low utilisation, over-allocation, stranded storage, too many redundant copies, low access speeds, inefficient search, and disruptive movement and migration. Buying faster storage processors with larger capacity disks on the same 20-year-old architectures will not solve the problem of inefficient use of storage. New storage architectures will be required to meet this demand for greater efficiency.
2. Control unit virtualisation of storage with thin provisioning will be recognized as the only approach to storage virtualisation that can increase utilisation, eliminate allocated but unused space, recover stranded storage, reduce redundant copies, increase access speed, and provide non-disruptive movement of data for multi-tiering, migration, and replication.
3. Data more than 60 days old on production systems will be considered toxic waste. Structured data such as databases and semi-structured data such as e-mail and document management data are increasing dramatically as they are required to hold more data, longer, for compliance reasons. This will call for new types of archiving systems that can scale to petabytes and provide the ability to search for content across different modalities of data.
In conclusion, 2008 is shaping up to be an eventful year for green IT, to say the least. Companies have plenty of work ahead of them to stay ahead of the looming power crisis as well as governmental mandates to reducing their carbon footprints. Further, vendors' practices and products will garner even closer scrutiny from the press and the public. The good news is, plenty of smart people out there -- technologists, analysts, business leaders, and politicians - have the challenges in their sights and are working as hard and as quickly as they can to meet those challenges head on.
What are your predictions for green tech in 2008?