East-West Tech Transfer: The Greening of IT, Part 1

The sharing of new technology — particularly in the high-tech sector — is taking place faster than ever before, yet economics, political and socio-cultural differences, vested interests and national agendas remain obstacles constraining the potential benefits.

To a greater degree than in previous decades, commercial organizations and governments are being challenged to address economic, social development and environmental needs at the same time.

The green IT movement is a case in point. Transnational IT industry leaders such as Google, IBM, Intel and others have announced wide-ranging initiatives aimed at reducing power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and use of their products and services, while also taking a close look at alternative, renewable and distributed sources of power.

Green IT awareness is on the rise in Asia as well as the West. Environmental degradation and associated socio-economic costs — along with impetus from transnational corporations and national and international climate change mitigation efforts such as the United Nation’s Kyoto Protocol — are moving environmental concerns up on the corporate agenda, according to research conducted by Springboard Research.

The study also found that awareness of green IT products in Asia is limited, however, in part due to insufficient push by IT vendors.

Driving Factors

“Computing devices have a significantly large and unrecognized carbon footprint. For example, an average-sized server has the same carbon footprint as a mid-sized sports utility vehicle getting 15 miles-to-the-gallon,” said Bob Hayward, Springboard’s research vice president. “As companies become more accurate in determining what percentage of energy costs are allocated to the IT department, you will see cost savings be the key driver of green IT investments.”

Some US$5 billion per year is spent on powering computers in the Asia Pacific region, Springboard estimates. More than 66 percent of that is wasted on systems in idle mode.

“Over the next several years, green IT will influence the entire IT industry in a significant way — globally. It will be driven by multiple factors: more regulatory and legal standards at international and national levels, consumer and enterprise demand, public scrutiny and corporate social responsibility,” Hayward told TechNewsWorld.

Today, green IT activity in the Asia-Pacific region is low and “driven primarily by global IT vendors, including Japanese electronics firms, and the pressure they, in turn, exert on their supply chain partners,” Hayward continued.

“This will change. Government response has been widely varied, from stringent laws in Japan to almost no response in India. China has initiated surprisingly aggressive policies. Most local firms have not really responded in any meaningful way to date, other than to comply with whatever requirements are imposed on them or to continue to supply their business partners with their increasingly eco-friendly needs.”

Big Green

IBM has been at the forefront of the green IT wave, having announced its multibillion-dollar Project Big Green earlier this year. The project spans the entire range of IBM’s own operations, as well as those of its customers around the world.

IBM is building an 850-strong worldwide “Green Team” of energy efficiency specialists committed to reallocating per year $1 billion worth of research and development spending. The team aims to build or prepare IBM facilities to qualify as “Green Data Centers” that employ IBM best practices and innovative power and cooling technology.

The company’s own energy conservation efforts resulted in a 40 percent reduction in CO2 emissions and $250 million in energy savings between 1990 and 2005, according to a presentation recently given by Rich Lechner, vice president of IT optimization at IBM.

Going forward, IBM intends to double the computing capacity of its Green Data Centers by 2010 without increasing power consumption or carbon footprint, thereby reducing power consumption by 5 million kilowatt-hours per year and realizing a further 12 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2012.

Managing Power Usage

Building and facilities energy management is proving to be an industry sector leader for IBM’s Project Big Green. The company has worked on five of the 14 buildings that have won Japan’s top award for green or intelligent buildings.

“In terms of client success, AP (Asia-Pacific) is our leader in specialized services around green and intelligent buildings, which gives them a strong position for green data centers,” Glen Yuan, IBM global technology services’ Asia-Pacific services product line executive, told TechNewsWorld.

“In a typical high-density computing environment like Central Weather Bureau in Taiwan, we have IBM green DC (data center) products and technology implemented with net 40 percent of energy cost reduction and 30 percent data center space saving,” Yuan noted.

Interest in green IT in the Asia-Pacific market, according to IBM, is typified by satisfying several basic requirements: energy cost savings, reducing overheating in high-density computing data centers, data center space limitations and corporate green strategy or local government regulations, such as Japan enacting a 5 percent year-over-year reduction in power consumption.

“There are 10 to 15 validated leads from each of the CIO (chief information officer) programs we conducted in the 2H (second half) ’07 in AP, a total of 31 qualified active projects on going plus specific opportunities not limited to DC but also to the building/campus,” Yuan reported.

“We’ve had a couple of wins with clients since the May announcement on ‘Green.’ Home Credit in Korea was the first SMB (small and medium-sized business) client to accept the scalable modular data center and will be implementing in November. … We’ve had other wins with Hostway on SMDC (scalable modular data center) and with building data centers for China Life and others too,” he added.

Distributed Energy and Developing Economies

Further upstream in the power supply chain, building “smart” electrical grids is becoming a national imperative as the demand for reliable, high-quality electrical power is a pressing — and increasingly problematic — need for rapidly expanding data centers and IT equipment manufacturing facilities around the world.

Digital-quality power demand in the U.S. currently makes up about 10 percent of total electrical demand. This will grow to between 30 and 50 percent by 2020 depending on the electricity industry’s ability to keep up with accelerating growth, according to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

Just as computing has become distributed, so too a growing number of IT industry participants are looking at hydrogen fuel cells and other alternative, renewable power sources to produce steady supplies of high-grade electricity for their operations.

Pennsylvania’s Power+Energy is one of a number of companies finding demand for its hydrogen purification technology in Asia’s high-tech sector. In late June, the company announced the shipment of three of its high-capacity PE9000S series hydrogen purifiers to a leading manufacturer of high performance LED (light-emitting diode) devices in Japan.

“Given the differences in the availability of local energy resources in the U.S. vs. Asia, particularly Japan, there are some significant differences in the early approaches and applications for fuel cells and alternative fuels,” Albert B. Stubbmann, Power+Energy’s vice president of sales and marketing, told TechNewsWorld.

“We see developing nations as an ideal market for fuel cells that run with fuel processors since the power infrastructure is often undeveloped and unreliable. Remote and backup power systems can provide continuity of infrastructure for power, telecommunications and other critical needs. Using fuel cells with fuel processors will reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions as well as increase reliability.”

East-West Tech Transfer: The Greening of IT, Part 2

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