Gartner Debate: Does Green IT Matter?

An analyst debate examines whether green IT is a myth or a legitimate effort to improve business by reducing energy consumption.

LAS VEGAS-Is green IT anything more than a buzzword when it comes to producing real reductions in carbon emissions or significant cost savings?

This was the issue debated April 8 at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo here. Gartner analysts Simon Mingay and Martin Reynolds argued that green IT is indeed important, while French Caldwell and Charles Smulders argued against green IT.

Some folks argue that green IT, the optimal use of information and communication technology for managing the environmental sustainability of business operations, is a myth. Others claim it is a crucial factor in how we do business.

Mingay kicked off the pro-green IT argument, noting that scientific analysis shows climate change is happening quickly, making it vital that we achieve atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide of 450 parts per million or less before the world heats up.

Click here to read about how major vendors competed to show their interest in "green" mobile technology at VoiceCon.

"There is good research out there that has shown that as economies invest in information and communication technology, they decrease the material intensity, greenhouse gas intensity, energy intensity and transportation of the economies," Mingay said. He also allowed that while the scientific analysis could be wrong, the world can't afford to take that chance.

Smulders in his rebuttal said green IT is a fiction, noting that IT accounts for 2 percent of global emissions. In fact, he said, cattle exude more CO2 in the United States than all of the motor vehicles on the road, and that the expected population explosion from 6 billion to 9 billion in 50 years is more significant than IT emissions. Moreover, he said carbon emissions cannot be reliably gauged, throwing any green IT equation out of whack.

Indeed, Smulders said vendors make a lot of marketing noise and do a lot of "greenwashing" regarding green IT. Few vendors are doing anything with tangible results unless it involves saving a lot of money, and companies are hitting walls in their data centers with regard to power consumption, he contended.