Microsofts Green IT Projects

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2009-09-29 Print this article Print


In addition to the energy-saving adjustments integrated into Windows 7, Microsoft has kicked off a handful of other green initiatives in 2009.

Microsoft's Redmond Ridge 1, to be operating at full capacity by spring 2010, will host 35,000 servers within self-contained pods and streamline the company's carbon consumption by 12,000 metric tons per year, the company has said. Keeping the 57,000-square-foot facility at an optimal temperature will rely on a system of evaporative coolers instead of chillers.

Redmond Ridge 1 is meant to take the place of server labs on the Microsoft's main campus in Redmond, Wash., with its servers running Hyper-V and Windows Server 2008 R2 to provide remote access for testers and developers. Although built for internal use, its pod model could be utilized for energy savings by other Microsoft facilities in the future.

"Redmond Ridge was an example of thinking outside the box," Bernard said. "We save 30 percent in terms of energy costs [versus using the old server labs]." Other server farms, including Microsoft's Dublin facility, will use similar methods to boost their energy efficiency.

Tools such as "virtualization, machine consolidation and bringing down systems not being used" will also help lower the energy needs of server farms, Bernard said. Microsoft's own internal policy has the company purchasing only devices with an Energy Star 5.0 rating.

Microsoft has launched a number of projects on the environmental-sustainability front throughout 2009, including the Environmental Sustainability Dashboard for Microsoft Dynamics AX released Feb. 9. In order to help businesses reduce their carbon footprint by providing a granular view of energy costs, greenhouse gas emissions and other factors, the application uses analytics licensed from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Department of Energy.

Originally code-named Niagara, the Environmental Sustainability Dashboard can automatically gather relevant data once the user inputs the units and quantities to be tracked. It also allows for a drill-down into topics such as "KPI List" and "Energy Consumption."

On the consumer side, Microsoft released Hohm, a Website that allows users to track their home energy consumption, on June 24. Hohm starts off by asking users for a postal code and e-mail address, followed by a series of questions about their energy consumption, such as, "What type of energy does your water heater use?"

Based on that information, Hohm offers "Your Home Energy Report," with an estimated cost breakdown and energy-savings recommendations. By the end of 2009, Microsoft expects to have partnered with 10 utility companies, allowing those companies' customers to automatically upload their energy consumption information to Hohm.

With PCs, as with Hohm, the ultimate energy savings come not from monitoring options, but from how users actually utilize their systems. "Running flashy, power-hungry screen savers, leaving machines on when not in use or always running machines with the 'performance' power profile [subverts] any efforts of the OS or the hardware makers to reduce power," Gartner's Kleynhans said.

So is Windows 7 truly an example of green IT?

"It's more than just lip service," Kleynhans said. "Its enhancements certainly help, and are a step in the right direction."

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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