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Greening the desktop: beyond the hype

01 Apr 2009

IBRS advisor Dr Kevin McIsaac recently said there is a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt surrounding desktop power consumption and urged IT consumers to look much more closely at the vendors’ power savings claims. “There is a lot of misinformation in the marketplace,” he explains. Sustainable IT is here to stay, but often customers can be caught up in the hype. The data centre was the natural first target of the green IT trend, but more recently there has been a lot of buzz about desktop virtualisation and the need to remove these power-guzzling devices from our desks. Of course desktops do use power and thin clients may be the way to go for light PC users. Nonetheless, removing the desktop is not always necessary. Simply turning it off at night would save the energy equivalent of 560 loads of washing per year, according to one statistic; something that can be achieved by setting up a power-down scheme. McIsaac, however, invites users to see the bigger picture. In a recent ‘green’ audit report he read that the organisation in question used more energy to power its fluorescent lighting than its desktops, and the biggest carbon footprint by far was left by the company’s car fleet; even the water boiler that provided staff teas and coffees consumed more power than the whole desktop suite. McIsaac exhorts us to “stop sucking up the vendor hype that desktops are the biggest problem on the planet”. He admits there is room for improvement, but asks that we ”go out there and actually look at the percentage of power consumption of your desktop and data centre, and then start looking at the things that matter”. If, for example, the end user is a mining company, then fiddling with the desktop fleet and data centre to make it more environmentally friendly will proportionately make very little difference. “If I really want to be ‘green’ I should find ways to make my coal mines greener!” exclaims McIsaac. “Let’s put some IT around these things, rather than running around as IT conglomerates pretending that IT is the biggest ‘green’ problem you have and that the desktop is the source of all evil!” The IT industry is perfectly positioned to use its technology to make a real difference in reducing carbon emissions.For a more in-depth look at green IT in the data centre, turn to page 20.

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