Last week, I flew from New York to North Carolina on Jetblue. My seat mate was a financial analyst who makes this trip weekly and was focused on his seat TV. He was curiously watching a television show on CNBC and something about South Africa. During a break he said he was a South African and was watching an interview about electricity rationing there, which started a discussion of conservation and economics.
Electricity rationing is becoming a trend worldwide. Brazil and Cuba now ration electricity, and New York and New Jersey are threatening to restrict power allotments for data centers. Anybody who does not think this is a world crisis should look back to 1973 and 1979, when the phrase “energy crisis” entered the English language. The parallels to today are striking: Oil prices are soaring, touching $118 a barrel recently. The dollar is weak; the political situation in Venezuela, a major oil supplier to the United States, is destabilizing; the United States is entangled in a seemingly endless war in the Middle East, the stock market is fading, and inflation is high (the price of food has doubled in the last year). But unlike the 1970s, when the economy was robust, today economic growth is slowing and the economy is threatened by the sub prime and credit card debt crises. The United States, with 5% of the world’s population, consumes 23% of the total energy produced in the world, far more per capita than any other country. That 5% of the world’s population has as much environmental impact than the 51% that live in the other five largest countries. And the cost of that energy, whether it is gasoline at the pump or electricity at the meter, is going up rapidly.
All of that suggests that enterprises need to focus on energy management both to find major savings in their operational budgets and to cut their carbon footprints, and that we are on the verge of seeing the appearance of Corporate Energy Officers in businesses. Organizations need to know their energy use, its cost over time, and how that energy is used and what it produces for the enterprise. And it needs to manage those costs and conserve energy wherever they can. IT can make a major contribution to this by embracing virtualization, ILM based tiered storage, Data Subsetting for Test/Dev instances, which reduces storage, consolidates the server population, cuts both power and cooling needs in the data center, and adds up to a significant drop on energy use. How significant? BT has cut 3,100 physical Wintel servers to 134 and eight data centers to three across the United Kingdom. This had a significant positive impact on the corporation’s bottom line and its carbon footprint, and improved its service to users, all while BT itself continued steady strong growth. It is time that we stop thinking of conservation as tree huggers versus business. The fact is that energy and carbon reduction are good business, and those who realize it now can position themselves to be the leaders in the next financial era.