It's a mad, mad world we're living in. Dirty power producers with coal- and gas-fired power stations emitting greenhouse gasses produce and deliver electrical power to our laptops, desktops and datacentres. Yet IT is getting blamed for contributing to global warming and is supposed to help remedy it through cutting power use.

Suppliers are developing products to capitalise on this and help CIOs cut power consumption. Here's a set of recent announcements on this theme.

Lenovo's first EPEAT gold desktop

Lenovo has introduced its ThinkCentre A61e ultra small form factor desktop, the company's smallest, quietest and most energy-efficient desktop yet. It has a footprint the size of an average telephone book, weighs just eight pounds, has whisper quiet performance, and choices of energy-efficient, 45-watt AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual core or Sempron single core processors, the first desktop to do so.

It is Lenovo's first product with EPEAT gold status, the highest rating a product can achieve in the ranking.

The ThinkCentre A61e desktop uses up to 90 percent reusable/recyclable materials as well as 90 percent recyclable packaging. It also can be powered by an optional solar panel and surpasses the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star 4.0 criteria with its 85 percent efficient power supply. What it means is that a customer could save up to 50 percent in energy costs annually over previous models.

This machine joins HP and Dell desktop and laptop EPEAT-rated systems to steadily increase customer choices in energy-efficient and recyclable devices.

Peter Schrady, Lenovo's VP and GM for emerging products, said: "The importance of maximising energy efficiency and being environmentally conscious is touching all aspects of our daily lives, from the light bulbs we use to light our homes to the hybrid cars we drive to the green technology we rely on to run our businesses."

Neoware thin client

Neoware has found a neat way to highlight the energy-efficiency of its m100 laptop thin client versus a traditional laptop. It's had thermal image photos taken of both and, no surprise, the trad laptop runs hot, ten degrees Centigrade more than the m100. Consequently Neoware says the m100 is the green alternative to laptops.

Andrew Gee, Neoware's sales manager for N Europe, said: "With more and more Wi-Fi hotspots and Virtual Private Networks, UK businesses want to become 'green on the go,' the Neoware m100 laptop can help UK businesses address this and, as the thermal imaging photography demonstrates, the device offers a greener alternative to traditional laptops."

Neoware also mentions the better data security aspect of a thin client laptop; there is no physical data residing on the device itself, enabling the device to be locked down and centrally managed, therefore making it ideal for organisations that handle highly sensitive data.

But, obviously, you can't use the device offline - it has no storage capability for application data. In that sense it is a quite restricted laptop.

ONStor

The benefits of consolidating storage into either block-level storage area networks (SANs) or file-level network-attached storage (NAS) are quite well known and becoming more so as full use of VMware and similar virtual server technologies requires networked storage.

ONStor is introducing a clustered NAS product, the Pantera 5000, that combines n-way clustering, virtual file servers, and single-pool storage to deliver a simple and efficient storage subsystem. The company is positioning it as an aspect of its 'Go Green' marketing intiative.

Bob Miller, ONStor's CEO, stated: "We have already announced our Go Green-initiative to drastically reduce power consumption in the IT environment by deploying ONStor storage (which has) built-in advanced power management and file server consolidation technology. We have responded to the recent Climate Savers Computing Initiative, which calls for computer makers and their customers to adopt technologies that significantly reduce energy consumption."

But he is a disappointed man, it appears, as an ONStor survey of how users are responding to green datacentre trends delivered poor results (for ONStor).

The findings of the research indicated that:

- 48 percent of European companies are predicting that they will outgrow their existing datacentre.
- 58 percent stated that they had already run out of space, power and cooling capacity in the last few months with little or no warning.
- Only 36 percent of organisations questioned had a green initiative in place right now despite the current trends and concerns debated in the market, while 29 percent said they were talking about it and a further 29 percent cited that there had been no discussions to date.

Miller commented about this: "Green initiatives are sweeping the IT industry with pressure groups such as the Green Grid now taking centre stage in an industry renowned for its power consumption. Whilst the vendors appear to be taking this issue seriously, the overall end user community is some way behind. (It) would appear from these findings that it will be market and technology drivers that affect change."

Of course, he could just be complaining that his company's marketing messages haven't resulted in increased sales and it's the customers' fault; not a pretty sight. Remember potential ONStor customer, take this green issue seriously and buy ONStor kit to help save the planet!

Other findings from ONStor's survey were:-

- 48 percent of organisations questioned felt that a drying up of energy supply would drive a reduction in power consumption at their datacentres - the only surprise here is that only 48 percent responded in his way.
- High power bills are driving business decisions in 66 percent of companies
- When asked what percentage of cost savings would be enough of an incentive to go green, 12 percent cited less than 5 percent, 24 percent stated between 5-10 percent and 33 percent stated between 10-20 percent.
- 73 percent of the sample stated that buying more efficient hardware and software would be integral to any corporate green datacentre policy.
- A further 55 percent stated that storage consolidation would be a central element of their green policy and 70 percent stated virtualisation technology.

The last finding suggests that storage consolidation has a substantial way to go yet and that VMware-type server virtualisation is seen as more important. That explains why storage suppliers such as NetApp and Left Hand Networks are partnering energetically with VMware and trying to get customers to buy into their storage virtualisation along with VMware.

Perhaps ONStor should be partnering VMware instead of pushing a power-saving message?

Celona Technologies

UK Application migration product supplier Celona Technologies believes that the greatest green gains will come from massive server and storage retirement delivered through application consolidation.

It has a new way of looking at UK IT power consumption, stating 'The UK's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) estimated last October that the UK's PCs and servers were already consuming 14 percent more power than the entire power consumption of Luxembourg with this figure still rising.' But, really, I mean, where is the surprise in this? Celona would have us embrace some sense of outrage and shame I suppose.

While endorsing the ONStor messages above, Celona's chief marketing officer, Paul Hollingsworth, tries to relate this to application migration: "Power-efficient storage is obviously really important but more important is ensuring that you have streamlined your applications and data. Duplicated data and applications are a major problem in many organisations and these cause a range of operational inefficiencies."

Well, yes, so we should de-dupe our data. Celona doesn't have a data de-dupe capability, preferring to stress the idea of application consolidation. Hollingsworth uses another survey to push this idea: "Celona recently conducted a survey among telecoms executives and 59 percent said they'd been so discouraged by an application migration that they decided not to go ahead with it. Our message to them is that the new-generation of migration technology overcomes these problems, making the long-awaited benefits of application consolidation a reality and is therefore a step towards becoming greener."

Celona products are being used by BT in an application consolidation project called One IT. BT's Steve O'Donnell says that, to date, One IT has enabled BT to decommission and consolidate over 1000 racks of servers, resulting in a net saving of 22GW hours per year. He said: "We calculate this translates to a (power) cost saving of just under £1.8 million per annum or around 3,110 metric tonnes of carbon per year." That's impressive.

Server retirement numbers through server virtualisation can be dramatic. Storage box retirement through storage virtualisation seems less dramatic. It seems that desktop and thin client suppliers and server-based application suppliers, such as VMware and Celona, have relatively straightforward and clear accounts of how using their products can rapidly lower IT power consumption costs.

Not so with storage. It's apparent that energy costs and supply limitations aren't yet high enough to drive datacentres to consolidate their storage as fast as they are consolidating servers.