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Greener Systems an Unstoppable Trend

Next in Tech Internetnews.com editors provide an early roadmap for tech's direction in 2007.

IT management isn't the first place you would start looking for environmental activists. But in 2006, the people in charge of buying and deploying computer technology found the concept of green computing extra compelling.

Analysts say the main reason is cost, energy and space savings; if it's also good for the environment, that's icing on the cake.

"Even if a customer is not looking at IT purchasing from an environmental-impact perspective, things like power management and energy efficiency are now a TCO [total cost of ownership] and infrastructure issue," John Frey, manager of corporate environmental strategies at HP, told internetnews.com.

The way things are going, Gartner predicts that by 2008, 50 percent of current datacenters will have insufficient power and cooling capacity to meet the demands of high-density equipment.

"With the advent of high-density computer equipment such as blade servers , many datacenters have maxed out their power and cooling capacity," said Michael A. Bell, research vice president for Gartner. "It's now possible to pack racks with equipment requiring 30,000 watts per rack or more in a connected load. This compares to only 2,000 to 3,000 watts per rack a few years ago."

And energy costs are rising. HP engineering research estimates that for every dollar spent on information technology, a company can expect to spend the same or more to power and cool it. As companies add more performance, they can expect those costs to continue rising.

There's no single magic bullet to address rising energy costs, but the computer industry is tackling the problem on many fronts and figures to make solid strides in the coming year.

"When energy is free you misuse it; when it costs you pay attention to it," said Greg Blonder, a general partner at venture capital firm Morgenthaler Ventures. "Most energy is saved and most progress is made by stacking up the little percentage improvements. It can be a lot of little things like smart fans that adjust their speed to run more effectively than 'dumb fans' that are always on."

Earlier this year, HP showed an electric ducted fan inspired by those used in some remote-controlled airplanes.

The so-called "Active Cool" fan is designed to provide more efficient air flow and adjust to the changing needs of the datacenter (e.g. spin faster as more server blades are added). It's also quieter than traditional fans. HP said it has some 20 patents pending on the technology.

HP also previewed a new energy-management system last month that the company said could save corporations as much as $1 million per datacenter per year, or up to 20 percent to 45 percent of the cost to keep those datacenters cool. The Dynamic Smart Cooling system is set for initial release this spring, with wider availability planned for the summer.

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