Green IT smackdown! An Earth Day report card

Earth Day has rolled around again, a day marked by a flurry of publicists’ e-mails extolling the green virtues of their prospective tech companies. Last year, ComputerWorld Canada chatted to some of the biggies about their eco initiatives .

Now, join us as we revisit some of the same companies—and a couple of new additions—about their commitment over the past year to the environment—and their now green-coloured fat bottom line.


Dell has its work cut for it—last June, founder Michael Dell announced that his new goal was to make Dell the greenest technology company. Dell has pledged to become carbon-neutral by the end of 2008. To help it reach its goal, more stringent “sleep” policies have been implemented in the company’s hardware, resulting in $1.8-million in energy savings. Over at the Round Rock facility, $1-million has been saved, courtesy of automated lighting systems. Dell also tries to use as much green energy has possible, with much of the power coming from wind, which is abundant down in Texas. Suppliers are also forced to submit their emission levels during the review process, making it more of a competitive point for potential Dell business partners, said Bryant Hilton, Dell’s environment communications manager.


The virtualization company is well-situated to tackle the problem of energy guzzling. Its technologies can net clients server reductions in the 70 to 90 per cent range, according to director of alliances Josh Leslie, who said that the resulting consolidation can result in energy savings of 50 per cent. Its Distributed Power Management feature also helps companies turn off servers when they’re not needed. The company has partnered up with a whack of power companies to offer virtualization incentives to businesses looking for cost savings in the data centre. The three major Californian utilities are on board, with more than a dozen in talks to follow. According to Leslie, VMWare anticipates having 50 to 80 per cent of utility companies on board over the next 18 months.


HP has the highest number of gold products on the objective, eco-ranking hardware site, said Frances Edmonds, director of environmental programs with HP Canada. Last year also saw the company reach the 1-billion-pound mark of products recycled. “We’ve now switched the goal,” said Edmonds. “Now we’d like to reach 2-billion pounds by 2010.” HP has had to adjust another goal: in 2005, it pledged to bring its emission levels 20 per cent lower by 2010. Having reached this goal three years early, this year saw the company pledging to aim for a decrease in 25 per cent in emissions by 2010 instead. HP’s bustling services practice also has some eco-friendly features, including the new Dynamic Smart Cooling consulting that aims to help clients reduce cooling costs in their data centres with thermal zone mapping.


An eight per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 is EMC’s goal, according to director of enterprise marketing Dick Sullivan, who said that a LEEDs application is also in the works for the company’s headquarters and its new facility in Bangalore. The company has also contributed financially and through technical support to the Global Alliance for ICT and Development. Also on deck is a new solid-state drive that offers customers a 38 per cent boost in energy efficiency.


The networking vendor has reaped $65,000 savings per month from a recent switch to an automatic managed power system that has reduced energy consumption in its labs by 40 per cent. (Cisco was also ranked as the ninth biggest purchaser of renewable energy in 2007 by the EPA.) Energy efficiency has also been put into the company’s products, with an emphasis on integratable and updateable design and automatic sleep modes. The company is also very pro virtualization, and, said, Cisco Canada director of corporate communications Willa Black, can “increase storage asset utilization up to 70 per cent.” Telepresence is another green thing going on there, with 25,000 meetings being held virtually to reduce the emissions and cost of travel.


IBM Canada’s vice-president of management, development and operations Pat Horgan said that IBM can deliver a 40 per cent in energy costs in under two years via its energy audits, consulting, and energy efficient products. These include quad-cores running virtual machines like the ones used by Kelowna, BC company Rackforce—it received a 30 per cent drop in its electricity bill in one year. IBM’s Canadian labs have also been on the cutting-edge and won awards. Its Bromont, Quebec facility uses a new recycled water solution that netted a six per cent drop in energy consumption in just one year, and a four per cent drop in water consumption. Over at the Ontario lab, reused stormwater and other techniques result in enough energy savings to power the YMCA across the street, too.

It can be tough to discern which company is doing the best in staying sustainable, said Info-Tech Research Group analyst Aaron Hay, as there is no individual, independent third-party that can verify each one’s claims. “It’s such a new area that there can be a lot of fake information being spread around,” said Hay. “Any corporate index are all saying and judging different things.”

So how best to determine what results are for-real and which don’t mean much? Hay recommends judging companies on whether and how they set goals. He said, “Look for companies that set very aggressive targets—and actually meet them.”

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