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Utility computing meets the utilties

I am currently attending the Corporate Climate Response conference in NYC (carbon-balanced flying courtesy of Expedia). The following is a recap of a panel discussion on implementation strategies for corporate climate initiatives.

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The T2000 server lines up for climate change fighting duty

How much do you pay for computing? For most of our lives, this has been an issue settled at the cash register of your favorite electronics retailer. But things are changing in a big way. According to IDC, as soon as 2010, we could be paying more to power our computers than we pay for the machines themselves.

Nowhere is this trend felt more strongly than in corporate data centers, those massive banks of computers that perform utility computing tasks such as serving up search engine results. The impact is staggering — more than 4% of US global warming emissions are directly attributable to data centers. To put this perspective, aviation accounts for only 5%. In raw numbers, Dave Douglas from Sun Microsystems estimates the impact in the US alone at 200 million metric tons (the equivalent impact of 40 million cars) and close to a billion tons globally.

Worse, the energy required to power the machines themselves is more than doubled by the surrounding infrastructure. Douglas estimates that for every watt a computer in a data center needs, an additional 1.4 watts are drawn for temperature control and power conversion.

The solutions? Some are simple product substitution. Sun bills the processors inside its T2000 servers as the most “eco-responsible every created,” with the “best performance per watt of any processor available.” That was enough for PG&E to offer an energy rebate for customers replacing old servers with the T2000. The machine is selling briskly, helping Sun deliver a solid business case for green technologies, and showing everyone else just one more example of how to do good by doing good.

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