Remember Energy Star? It was in 1992 that the U.S. department of Energy (www.energystar.gov) came up with the program to identify and promote energy-saving devices to counter carbon dioxide emissions. The purpose was noble, the logo including a star and a globe was far more artistic than most government labels, and after a brief burst of publicity, the star fell into the bureaucratic backwaters.
Energy Star, so well-intentioned, was run over by the SUV craze, the go-go years of outfitting every dot-com startup with the highest horsepower workstation that venture capital could buy, and housing prices that rewarded square footage and minimansions.
But last week, with the continuing climb in energy prices (a proposed 40 percent hike in California) and a president proclaiming that the energy crisis is now a reason to relax carbon dioxide standards, I wondered if the old Energy Star might have some life in it yet. Sure enough, the Web site still stands. Maybe, in addition to performance, it is time to think about how much it is costing you to run all those servers, storage networks, printers and displays.
This idea was reinforced during a visit to Denver last week, where I stopped in to visit with StorageTek. Within the high-tech industry, I dont think there is any product that has been more frequently proclaimed dead than storage tape systems. Tape has been called too slow, too complex and too unmanageable by all those people trying to sell you disk-based storage networks.
And watching those robotic arm tape pickers, one tends to feel that tape banks will go the way of jukeboxes that used to pick and play vinyl records. But one thing tape proponents are quick to point out is the inherent energy efficiency in those tape libraries. When the tapes are sitting in their racks, they are using zero energy.
Just as the first gas crisis started people thinking about working at home rather than commuting, the blossoming energy crisis might lead to considerations other than simply tape over disk. Systems, including computers and peripherals, that quickly power down and resume start to sound more sensible. Flat-panel terminals sold for energy rather than desktop space conservation become a better economic argument.
Application service providers and hosted remote services have been trying to justify the subscription model based on lowered capital and management costs. Maybe they should also consider pitching the freedom to shut down those raised-floor, super-air-conditioned server rooms.
The Energy Star program faltered because global warming was much debated but unresolved.
This time the program might succeed as your monthly electric bills rise faster than the thermometer does in July.