IT in 2009: Greener Pastures?

Think of a data center. Picture rows upon rows of storage racks, all humming away in a warehouse somewhere. Now imagine how much energy is required to keep it running.

The IT industry is notorious for generating a massive carbon footprint. According to an article by Robert Petrocelli of the Computer Technology Review, a single rack of storage enclosures using 6 kilowatts generates 40 tons of carbon dioxide — as much as six 1999 Chevy Tahoe SUVs. Petrocelli added that “most storage systems represent the equivalent of perpetually idling an SUV in the garage on the off chance the owner might want to take a drive."

Further, a report in The McKinsey Quarterly found that the increasing carbon footprint associated with information and communications technologies — everything from computers, data centers and networks to mobile phones and telecommunications systems — could make them the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The report went on to say that “emissions from the manufacture and use of PCs alone will double for the next 12 years as middle-class buyers in emerging economies go digital.”

But there’s hope. New research — also presented in the McKinsey Quarterly article — suggests these very same technologies can be used to make the world economy more energy and carbon efficient. The study found that such technologies could eliminate nearly 8 metric gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2020, which translates to five times the estimated emissions from…


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