back to article A green solution? So what?

With vendors falling over themselves to demonstrate their green credentials, it's interesting to consider how much customers really care when they are looking to buy IT products and services. According to our recent survey on computing and the environment, the answer is "not that much" at the moment. Based on responses from …


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  1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Oh it's so simple...

    Green solution = does not work very well = cost much more than an optimal solution would = scam.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Green solution

    Haven't IT kit buyers always been motivated by a green agenda? After all, we rarely purchase kit that gives us less resource per watt than the stuff it replaces, so by default we are going green - yay!

    OK, so increasing demand will increase the overall amount of power we pull, but that isn't IT's fault :-)

  3. deive

    It is simple!

    Capitalist solution = rape everyone and everything for a little more money.

    flame wars start, woo!

    OK, I'll get me coat...

  4. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    @Vladimir: it is indeed simple

    Usually the green solution in IT concerns performance per watt. If I can get two servers (differences in price need not be big) one of which has better performance per watt than the other this is always interesting. If I need 1000 of the same servers, it is VERY smart to choose the greener solution, nothing to do with environmental policy, just "old-fashioned good business sence." And it does not stop at just the power drain from the servers themselves, the cost of cooling these systems is skyrocketting. When you mention "optimality" a professional IT person should take all aspects into account. This is what optimality means: balancing various conflicting parameters to suit your specific needs requirements. For a small firm running one or two servers power and cooling do not affect the bottom line very much (or not visibly). In big firms (or HPC-centres such as ours) energy costs are starting to outstrip acquisition costs of the hardware. Thus, if I can get 95% of (e.g. peak or linpack benchmark) performance for 50% of the energy cost by choosing a "greener" HPC solution, the green solution makes sense, even if the hardware is a bit more expensive.

  5. Ken Hagan Gold badge


    ...and for a laptop or smaller device, the green solution has proportionately longer battery life, which I'm told is a major selling point. (Shame about the batteries themselves, mind.)

    So that's everything except office-based (small 'o') desktops, which I'm told are going out of fashion anyway, in favour of either laptops or thin-client-control-freakery. There! Planet saved.

  6. Garth


    "Green solution = does not work very well = cost much more than an optimal solution would = scam."

    It is the duty of a the people/properly functioning government to make sure business are unable to externalize their true costs. Of course businesses get peeved when they actually have to pay for the cleanup of their own mess. So it often fails. But what is an optimal solution for one business can fail to be an appropriate optimal Nash Equilibrium with competing global interests. Like survival.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    The wrong way round

    Surely the reason companies are pushing their green credentials is not to impress consumers but to pre-empt even more prohibitive legislation being forced on them if they are not perceived by doing something.

  8. Tawakalna

    about that legislation...

    ..that'll be that EU malarkey - we're going through all this as part of our "environmental" certification - but as the people who come round to audit this drivel are muppets, we can tell them any old lies; they don't know the difference.

    Green schmeen, by the time the sea-levels rise to the point that I'd notice (or even care) I'll be long dead, why should I be bothered?

  9. Tim

    It's not surprising...

    Has anyone actually tried choosing equipment based on green criteria? I tried this on a number of printers a while back, bear in mind that the accountants want some objective data for the decision to be based on, and found it next to impossible. Each printer maker has many green claims, but very few facts underlying them, and there is no independant data available from anyone. I even tried the FOE and Greenpeace but they have no data at all, they didn't even have advice on the criteria to consider. From simple facts like expected lifespan and ability to operate on recycled cartridges, to more complex measures of energy used during manufacture - nothing. And as for paper, some say recycled is best, others suggest Forest Stewardship Council approved - however the FSC don't seem to publish their approval criteria or answer emails about it. Surely they're not all just pushing the green badging to try to increase their sales?

  10. Herby

    Remember Kermit the Frog

    He was (is) green too.

    If "green" means getting more done for less power, I suspect that everyone will be for it. The big question is "how much will it cost?". If the cost is more than the savings (net present value and all that), it doesn't make much sense.

    I do some "green". The local grocery store is a small walk away (15 minutes). If something isn't time sensitive and is easy to carry, I take the walk. It gets me some exercise (which I need) and I don't burn (now very) expensive gasoline. If I need to do a whole bunch of shopping (shopping cart full), I take the bug SUV. Makes more sense. IT is much the same way. If it fits in, and works well, "green" it is (nobody wants to pay a big power bill!). But spending $100s to save pennies per day is a bit crazy. The "payback" is years away, and by then the kit will have been retired.

    Pretty simple if you ask me.

    Vista is another matter................

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Green Coffee Cups

    Our school gave out green coffee insulated mugs in an effort to recuce the waste from all the styrofoam coffee cups. This was their idea of going green. The cups were made from some kind of plastic made with corn that is not even dishwasher safe.

    This was kind of lame I thought. They could have come up with something a little better. I dont drink coffee so now I have this stupid mug with its green label sitting on my desk. The idea of using insulated coffee mugs is a good thing, but they would have been better off getting something that is dishwasher safe. At least then we could sanitize the coffee mugs.

    I would have preferred a worthy project like some solar pannels on top of one of their buildings to reduce energy usage or sponsoring an alternative energy fair. Even though solar panels are not completely cost effective they do limit the amount of energy you have to produce for the electric grid. This energy from the power plant is usually produced by burning coal, so I would consider less pollution to be an added benefit that is hard to quantify.

  12. Richard Silver badge

    re Solar Panels.

    You've got to be careful here!

    Photovoltaic solar panels cost more energy to produce than they will generate in their lifetime - in other words, they are not in the least bit 'green'.

    Thermal solar panels which preheat water for the central heating and hot water system are useful though.

  13. Charles Manning
    Paris Hilton

    @ Green Coffee Cups

    Sanitising is the very worst thing to do to a green coffee cup! The green actually comes from the mould & other life forms and sanitising will kill, or at least maim, the life forms. The mug is made out of corn starch so that the wee beasties have something to feed on.

    PH because this is such basic biology!

    And, yes, Ricahrd is right. Current silicon PV is greenwashing at its worst. The only time PV makes sense is when the whole system installation requires considerable extra resourcess to put in (eg. remote area power). There are some promising PV technologies on the horizon with real energy benefits, but backing silicon PV is just silly.

  14. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    @Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    "If I need 1000 of the same servers, it is VERY smart to choose the greener solution, nothing to do with environmental policy, just "old-fashioned good business sence.""

    Oh, yes - completely agree with you. But what does it have to do with "green"?

    It's not a green solution - it's a better equipment (subject to reliability compromises if any). You go for it because the energy prices are rising and that new equipment helps you save money. You (or your compmany) would still go for it even (or especially) if we faced a new Ice Age and not a Global Warming.

    Green solution is to switch to an inferior cooling system, which will cost twice as much and will only work if it rained the night before and otherwise will rely on you opening all doors and windows and flapping your hands at the comms racks to try to cool them down.

    What I'm saying is that "green" here and now is just like "red" was in the Soviet Union - the holy colour of political correctness.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Right on, comrade.

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