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Intel beats drum for energy efficiency

The greening of IT

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In the wake of the Stern Report, businesses are starting to take energy efficiency seriously as an economic issue, but research from Intel suggests there is still some way to go before this concern filters down to the IT department.

This might seem something of a contradiction when you consider just how much it costs businesses to run its desktops and data centres. Intel would argue that it is a question of responsibility:

Speaking at a panel debate in London today, Intel EMEA VP Gordon Graylish commented: "If I say you can have any car you like and I'll pay for the fuel, you don't have any incentive not to choose the biggest engine you want," he says.

The implication is that because IT doesn't have to pay the energy bills (coming in at an average of between £30,000 and £50,000 annually, among the companies surveyed) they have no incentive to buy energy efficient kit.

IT's power consumption is also growing ahead of company headcount in most larger firms. Almost 65 per cent of businesses report increasing power costs in the last three years, and 40 per cent say this is down to increasing use of IT rather than company growth.

The good news is that IT wants to be greener. The overwhelming majority (94 per cent) of IT managers feel they could do more to reduce the carbon impact of IT. But only half thought it was an issue for IT to deal with, and even fewer (one in five) had begun to address it by conducting an energy audit, or investing in power saving kit.

Also on the panel was HP's environmental brain in Europe, Zoe McMahon. She says the economic picture is clear, pointing out that for every dollar spent on new servers, an additional 70 cents will go towards power and cooling costs (IDC). "IT managers are only just beginning to see this," she says. "Having the technology is one point, but you also have to raise awareness."

But without widespread standards and commonly accepted metrics for measuring the energy efficiency of IT kit, it seems unlikely that much headway will be made.

The panel was unanimous in its view that although legislative context is important for developing standards, governments should not be in the driving seat, lest product function be inadvertently compromised by arbitrary decisions.

"It's no good setting a rule that says a machine in standby can only consume four Watts if then I can't wake my machine up because it doesn't have the power available," Graylish says.

While the panelists agreed that standards would be important, it had little to say about how to develop them. The consensus was that industry should lead, but no one seemed sure in which direction it should go.

In the meantime, Intel says, IT managers can do simple things to reduce their energy consumption, such as switching on the power management on desktop machines. ®

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