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Green computing is nice, but better resource utilization drives demand

Solution providers say green computing is nice, but customers are driven more by the need for higher resource utilization.

Hardware makers have gone green, launching green computing initiatives and products designed to boost energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

IBM in 2007 unveiled Project Big Green, a plan that calls for products and services that reduce energy consumption in the data center. This year, the company expanded that effort with the introduction of modular data center designs that it said can reduce energy usage by as much as 50%.

In May, Dell Inc. said that by 2010 its desktops and laptops will be designed to consume up to 25% less energy compared with current models. Hewlett-Packard Co., which also pursues lower greenhouse gas emissions, began targeting the channel in June with a green-minded blade server product for Oracle data warehousing.

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But even as vendors talk up their green wares, customers don't necessarily rate green computing as their top priority.

"I don't think going green is the thing they look at," noted Dave Lasseter, vice president of the IBM Power Systems business at Mainline Information Systems Inc., a Tallahassee, Fla.-based solution provider

Customers, he said, tend to focus on server utilization first, with energy consumption in the background.

"By default it is part of the discussion," he said of the energy usage. "But it is a secondary part of the discussion."

At the enterprise server and storage level, the primary driver is always cost, added Vic Berger, technologist and manager of solution development at CDW Corp.

"When you look at things like green IT, those are great secondary benefits if you can get them in your solution," he said.

The story is similar in the small and medium-sized business (SMB) arena.

"In the SMB space … green attributes found in server technologies are strictly a value-added element," said Tina Fisher, senior director of purchasing at D&H Distributing Co., which focuses primarily on the SMB market.

"It's not the key attribute that will determine the value of the server," she added. "In fact, small businesses, for the most part, are new entrants in the server arena. So taking that into account, we find that the main motivation for an SMB company to implement a server-based network is the benefit that an organized infrastructure can bring to its operation."

Solution providers: Green computing brings ancillary benefits

But for larger organizations, the main motivator is getting the most out of their servers. Businesses with tight IT budgets look to improve server utilization through consolidation and virtualization, solution providers said. The traditional one-application-per-server approach has led to server proliferation and the commitment of considerable management resources.

"They have to look at better utilization of the server technology," Lasseter said of server-heavy organizations.

He cited one case in which a company operated 42 servers -- and was planning to add five more -- but was able to instead consolidate and run its workload on three IBM pSeries servers.

While virtualization may be the priority, customers can also benefit from increased power efficiency, Lasseter explained. He said highly consolidated and virtualized environments may see power reduction on the order of 80%.

Berger said virtualization "has the green IT benefit that comes along with it, part and parcel. So, it becomes a very attractive value proposition for customers."

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