The Big Turn-Off
The year 2008 was supposed to be the year of green IT. Back in 2007, analyst firm Gartner Inc. tagged green technology as the hottest category in the industry for 2008. Green IT definitely made a cultural impact last year: IBM Corp. launched a series of ads featuring corporate executives dancing with various animated woodland creatures, and the press spent a lot of bandwidth talking about how companies could save money and be good environmental citizens at the same time.
Much of the green IT hype in 2008 focused on large companies and big projects. But when stocks tanked and companies started bracing for a tough 2009, big-money green projects slid off magazine covers and onto long-term IT wish lists. Gartner even bumped green from No. 1 in 2008 to No. 10 in 2009 on the hot-technologies list.
Green IT lives, though, and it's not just for big corporations or data centers. In fact, one of the simplest ways companies can realize a quick return on investment and save energy is by managing computer power usage. The U.S. Department of Energy says that of the more than 100 million PCs in use in the U.S. commercial sector, more than 60 percent run all night long. Only 36 percent are turned off at the end of the workday. That adds up to $70,000 per year in wasted energy costs for a company with 1,000 PCs.
Vendors like Minneapolis-based New Boundary Technologies Inc. are out to help companies save some of that wasted money. In November, New Boundary launched its aptly named Green IT Solution, which combines its Policy Commander Windows-management product with the company's PwrSmart technology. Simply put, the Green IT Solution lets admins set and monitor specific policies for shutting down computers and monitors that aren't in use.
Policy Commander provides granular control and reporting that's not available in Microsoft's Group Policy, and, while big vendors such as IBM have some power-management capabilities in their large management suites, New Boundary sells mostly to small and midsize businesses that aren't heavily invested in big-vendor technologies.
To be sure, New Boundary isn't the only vendor focusing on PC power management: Verdiem Corp., U.K.-based 1E Ltd., Autonomic Software Inc., BigFix Inc. and KACE Networks Inc. all have similar offerings.
Despite the glut of products now available and the hype surrounding green IT, Eric Peterson, product manager for New Boundary, says companies are just beginning to invest in power-management technology.
"People are just now hearing about it-it still isn't to the point of actually controlling it with IT," Peterson says. "[This] year is really when the implementation begins and when a lot more people are going to be getting on board."
But will companies spend money in a tightening economy? Peterson is optimistic. "If you get tasked with a go-green strategy and you don't have our solution, how will you accomplish it?" he says. "Companies always have active projects. Whenever there's an active project, people need to get it done. I wouldn't call it an up-tick, but I wouldn't call it a downturn either."
Lee Pender is the executive features editor of Redmond magazine. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.