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Once we dispel the common misconception that Green IT, the practice of environmentally sound practices in the Information Technology field, is an altruistic pursuit alone and not grounded within the constraints of capitalism, we will see the adoption of Green IT explode. Several key elements in the financial markets, public opinion, and technology have aligned to form the perfect storm to bring about radical change in business behavior.

With the world’s financial markets at near collapse, lending clogged with fear, and revenue forecasts looking downhill, IT Departments across the globe are being told to 'do more with less'. That giant groan you heard over the past week was the sound of budgets everywhere getting tightened in reaction to the markets. Mandates tell business leaders to hold tight with what they already have and find ways to get more out of their current environments. That's tough when data centers are doubling every 5 years (US EPA Report to Congress August, 2007). That's tough when companies are more and more dependent on IT to run their business and differentiate themselves against their competitors. That's tough when technology in general has already resulted in lower operating costs and increased productivity. Shrinking IT back to where it was in the early 80's is more dangerous than the third rail.

If that pressure system is not enough, over 90% of consumers in the US say they'd consider switching brands if they learned about a company's negative environmental practices. Seventy-five percent of MBA students polled from top b-schools said they were willing to accept a 10-20% lower salary to work for a responsible company (Corporate Citizenship Study, Marc Gunter, Faith and Fortune, 2006). Consumers and employees are not only asking for more environmentally responsible organizations; they are voting with their pocketbooks and where they decide to invest their time.

Technological advances in a few key areas address these shifts head on. One group of technologies is called virtualization. In server virtualization, multiple server operating systems reside on a single server displacing the old model of one operating system per physical server. The result is an overall reduction of physical servers with ratios operating servers to physical servers of 10:1 or greater. OK, so what? Well, using modeling tools developed at Avanade by Steve Fink reveal that this simple change for 1000 servers would produce annual savings of ~$7M a year and 70% reduction in carbon emissions. All this benefits comes from just this one server farm.

Doing more with less coupled to an environmentally responsible approach that yields to the constraints of capitalism is Green IT. The storm may be unpleasant and painful at times, but the results may cause the necessary changes to form real, sustainable organizations. Next time, let's discuss why some of the clouds from this perfect storm are going to stay around for a while.

Toby J. Velte, Ph.D.
Avanade Inc | Minneapolis
My Fast Company Profile
Co-author of Green IT: Reduce Your Information System's Environmental Impact While Adding to the Bottom Line.