How Microsoft is going green

Microsoft, with 70,000 employees spread out across the world, is deep into a corporate-wide evaluation of how it can become a more environmentally friendly corporation.

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"I had an opportunity to tour their Bremerton [Washington] facility and the raised floor system was fabulous for long-term flexibility, particularly in their industry," says Kath Williams, principal consultant of Kath Williams + Associates.

Williams was president of the World Green Building Council from 2004 to 2007, and vice chair of the US Green Building Council from 1996 to 2003. While she says she is not familiar with Microsoft's overall green plan, she adds, "Any step by any [company], particularly the biggies, any step is major. We are turning a big ship."

Microsoft's effort to influence that turn naturally extends to its software.

Vista's default settings for power management are far more aggressive than those in previous versions, and sleep mode happens much more quickly, Microsoft's Bernard says.

Power management extends to servers in Windows Server 2008, which will support a virtualisation technology called Hyper-V that allows consolidation of servers to improve CPU use and provide real-time capacity management.

Bernard says such applications as Live Meeting and Roundtable can help reduce travel needs.

And Microsoft is extending beyond its walls. In May 2007, it began working pro-bono with the Clinton Foundation on a combination of software and online services to help measure, track and analyze carbon footprints in the world's largest cities including New York, Rome, Tokyo and Paris. The software, based on the science of the Local Governments for Sustainability association, is expected out in the spring.

"We can use intelligence and patterns and other types of analysis tools to help cities accelerate innovation around how they address this problem," Bernard says.

Microsoft also is tapping its partners to develop software to assist in environmental sustainability, launching in July a contest called The Ingenuity Point.

Bernard says it all adds up to one massive initiative he must organise and evolve. "The ultimate goal is to drive change into not only our products, but how they are built and used, how they consume energy themselves, and how they are recycled. But just as important is how we help the industry leverage the software to solve these massive environmental problems," he says.

It's a job, Bernard acknowledges, one that is just starting for Microsoft and the industry: "As a society and as a company we are still in the first inning."


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