Green IT is the practice of using new technology such as virtualisation, as well as sustainable product design, with green computing equipment that features advanced power management.
These sorts of elements can help an organisation to use its existing computing resources more efficiently. As a result, green computing can save an organisation money through the reuse or recycling of hardware and other resources.
Energy-efficient technology can also help an organisation achieve social responsibility targets.
An IT organisation can take several steps along the green computing route.
One major green computing change that will benefit the environment, is to use alternative power sources.
Most energy providers now have an option for using "green power" generated from windmills, hydroelectric, photovoltaic panels, or nuclear sources, although some of these sources are perceived to be more environmentally friendly than others.
In addition, some internet service providers have committed to fully or partly using alternative energy. Memset was one of the first ISPs to go carbon-neutral in 2006.
Computer virtualisation is another step towards green IT. This is the process of running two or more logical computer systems on one set of physical hardware.
By combining physical systems in a single, more powerful system, the system administrator can reduce the IT system's power and cooling requirements.
There are a number of commercial and open-source virtualisation applications available, and processor manufacturers have also built virtualisation support into their chips to help run the software.
Power management has evolved across the years and can now allow IT managers to control the power states of individual IT components.
By configuring the system to automatically turn off monitors and hard drives after set periods of inactivity, or to hibernate whole systems, an organisation can greatly reduce its electricity usage. Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) is the key standard used by manufacturers to enable this.
Much of the new hardware is more environmentally friendly and users can take advantage of lower-power PCs, thin-client PC replacements, and solid-state drives that have lower power requirements. LCD monitors also tend to draw less power than CRTs, and more efficient switches and routers are available that can help cut operating costs.
Finally, by safely recycling computing equipment, users can keep harmful materials such as lead, hexavalent chromium and mercury out of landfill sites. Many firms offer recycling service. Donating obsolete but still functional systems to charities can also be a mutually beneficial option.
Green computing: features and analysis
Green computing: the rest of web
Green computing: blogs
Green computing: statistics
Green computing: video
This was first published in April 2008