Saturday, March 1, 2008

Postcards from IDC's Green IT Forum

I just got back from the 1-day Green IT Forum IDC held in NY last week. I have to say it was pretty-well attended by the IT director/VP types from NY financial firms and the like.

Matt Eastwood and Vernon Turner opened the day with a refreshingly broad definition of "Green IT" -- rather than harping on the usual myopic chats about power and cooling. Rather, their definition includes Energy, materials, recycling, etc., and the intersection of Corporate Social Responsibility, economics and technology. They have a very comprehensive framework to encompass a holistic approach to an organization's "greenness". It involves 9 areas:
  • Power & cooling
  • Flexible employment
  • Economic development
  • Reverse logistics
  • Diversity
  • Philanthropy
  • Supply-chain ethics
  • Community/NGO involvement
  • Carbon trading
What's great is that they are not confining the conversation to the data center perspective; rather, they are looking at how IT technology can impact work - telecommuting, telepresence, etc., as well as many of the traditional IT efficiency approaches. (BTW, in a former life, I helped Sun Microsystems launch their OpenWork practice of flexible/remote work - which is credited with saving the company scads of energy, office space, and employee time).

Steve Sams (IBM's VP of global technology services & facility services) also gave an insightful talk of how they've been approaching the efficiency/economics issue over the years. Part of the problem, he observed, was that 77% of Data Center ops people *don't* pay their own electric bills... so where was their economic incentive to improve? This of course implied that the financial relationships of IT need to change to properly incent/reward the people consuming the energy and generating the waste.

Most sobering -- to me anyway -- was the talk given by Vijay Sankaran (director of infrastructure operations) at Ford. This guy had the 'open kimono' delivery, admitting to the fact that they (like all large enterprises) have thousands of Intel, AIX, HP, Sun etc. etc. servers around the globe, and that he's facing a multi-stage multi-year effort to trim and simplify. Admittedly, he said, there is no point-solution that will help; rather it was a matter of standardizing on fewer platforms, consolidating data centers, and implementing strong process control. And only then will they achieve the types of efficiencies where they can call themselves "green".

I have to say that I was somewhat unimpressed by the VMware break-out presentation, which sounded like every other VMware presentation I've attended. (But it was amusing to hear an audience member ask about pricing pressures caused by a number of other virtualization entrants -- and to hear the VMware rep essentially capitulate to the fact that prices for VMs will come down.) And, although I had high expectations for a presentation from Wachovia, I was also pretty unimpressed by their talk as well.

Closing the day, however, there was a reasonably interesting panel made up of representatives from Credit Suisse, Wm Wrigley Jr. Co., Citigroup and Pepco Holdings. These folks reinforced Matt & Vernon's opening points -- each of them was taking a significantly holistic approach to environmentalism and corporate social responsibility, and IT efficiency was only a part of the imperative.

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