Green IT gripes from CeBIT

Europeans are said to be more concerned about green IT issues than Americans, but that's not the sentiment I discovered at CeBIT in Germany this week.

OK, so I was buying the line from vendors, but they're not always wrong... ;-)

I'm at CeBIT, the biggest computer show in the world and the event organisers have rolled out the "green carpet" big time. The trouble is no one's walking down it, or very few users at any rate.

At an IDC analyst session, the speaker asked for a raise of hands from users that are prioritising green IT. Of the 200 or so in the room, a few reluctantly raised their hands.

After the session I asked a couple of people why no one seemed that bothered. One guy responsible for networks and security at his company said he doesn't pay the electricity bill and as far as he knows they are not short of power. His firm is in Munich, Germany's third largest city with a population of 3.5 million.

Another guy called the whole thing a marketing fad. And someone else told me tongue in cheek that he is doing server virtualisation but didn't know whether it was having a noticeable impact on global warming or not. Someone else pointed out that only very large organisations with perhaps 1,000 servers or more really care about the issue.

After several conversations like this I decided to head to the "Green IT Village" in Hall 9 (there are 26 halls at this show) in search of some more enlightening stories. It turns out Hall 9 is actually the showcase for Germany and every county has a booth showing off whatever industry dominates its region. Eventually I found the "Green IT Village" tucked away in the corner. It was more like a Green IT backyard.

There were several information stands with lots of vendor logos everywhere and leaflets about the Climate Savers Computing Initiative and a bar and discussion area with comfy chairs. I counted less than 20 people in the "village" in the hour that I hungout around the plastic trees.

Later at the giant, overly lit IBM booth in Hall 2, press were taking photos of an enormous perspex wall with water running through the middle of it - IBM's theme for the show was green IT. I asked them how much energy their booth consumed. Nobody knew but someone pointed out to me that they are trying to raise awareness. Missing the irony, totally, they steered me towards the new Z10 mainframe.

To finish the day I was on a vendor's booth (a big yellow one in the security hall) and a technician was replacing a dead light bulb, overseen by many executives at the company. I asked if it was an energy saving bulb, but no one answered. Then I suggested not replacing it at all, as the booth was already extremely well lit. Everyone looked at their shoes. I felt like the Greenpeace activist that nobody wants to talk to.

It appears to me that green IT is no more a priority for IT users in Europe than it is in the United States. Large companies in cities like New York, London and Los Angeles are out of power and are finding ways to improve utilisation to get around that, but as for climate saving computing; it's a philosophical discussion being had in comfy chairs with a beer in hand, before getting back to work.

About the author: Jo Maitland is editorial director of and, TechTarget's first two websites based out of the UK and focused exclusively on delivering content for UK readers. Prior to this role Jo was news director on for four years. She was also a founding editor of Byte and Switch and has written for many other IT publications in the past 10 years.

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