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HP pushes for lower data center power consumption, green computing

HP is promoting green computing by working to reduce data center power consumption in its own facilities, as well as its customers' data centers.

The documentary film An Inconvenient Truth tells us we have just 10 years to avert a global warming catastrophe that may cause extreme weather, floods, droughts, and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever seen.

Global warming is on everyone's mind these days, especially in the IT industry. Data centers reportedly use 1% to 2% of the total power consumption in the U.S., according to Paul Perez, vice president, storage, networks and infrastructure for HP.

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Perez addressed HP's initiatives to promote green computing and reduce the company's environmental footprint during a media dinner in Boston on March 28 in response to the blockbuster documentary film.

HP announced a goal this week of reducing their power consumption 20% below 2005 levels by 2010 through energy-efficient products and operating practices.

"Data centers are becoming more and more industrialized, and power consumption is a major concern now," Perez said. "Either the industry leads, or the government regulates. We want the industry to lead."

For example, over the next few months HP will begin shipping more energy-efficient power supplies that weren't available before because power conservation hadn't been at the forefront of IT managers' minds, Perez said.

"A decade ago, the loss of business continuity from a server going down was a big fear for IT managers. Their jobs depended on it. Now, they are asking us how to conserve power because they have power budgets to conform to," Perez said.

Energy-efficient products lower power consumption

The company, which operates in more than 170 countries around the world, plans to meet its energy reduction goal through more efficient products, internal operations and supply chain management.

Recent innovations that should help HP customers reduce its power consumption include PCs with power supplies that are 33% more efficient than their predecessors. Furthermore, redesigned print cartridge packaging for North America will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 37 million pounds in 2007, the company reported.

HP has also introduced an energy management system for data centers in November, Dynamic Smart Cooling, which delivers 20% to 45% savings in cooling energy costs, the company reported.

"Cooling is about 60% of the power costs in a data center because of inefficiency," Perez said. "The way data centers are cooled today is like cutting butter with a chain saw. The air-conditioning system in my home is more efficient than cooling systems in data centers today."

HP plans to practice what it preaches in its own operations by consolidating 85 of its data centers worldwide into just six larger data centers, using virtualization, blade servers, combining applications and smart planning, Perez said.

Alternative energy sources to power data centers

The company is also looking at less conventional ways to obtain power. Wind power, water and methane gas are on the HP radar, as they are for other data centers, Perez said.

"We are looking at supply management of power and other ways to generate it, such as cogeneration of power or whether to generate power using a grid or through local sources," Perez said.

Last year, HP purchased 11 million kWh of renewable energy for use in its operations and also joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Green Power Partnership program -- a challenge to Fortune 500 companies to double their renewable energy purchases by the end of 2007. HP plans to increase renewable energy purchases by more than 350% by procuring 50 million kWh of renewable electricity during 2007, the company reported.

HP also established an initiative with the World Wildlife Fund-U.S to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its operating facilities worldwide.

Jumping on the energy-efficiency bandwagon

Other vendors, like Dell Inc. and IBM, have responded to the call for action against global warming as well.

Dell sponsors the Plant a Tree for Me program in partnership with The Conservation Fund and Carbonfund. The program is designed to offset carbon emissions associated with the electricity generated to power IT products by planting trees. Participants can offset the estimated total one-year carbon impact of an average American citizen by donating $99 to the program, 100% of which Dell administers to its partners to plant trees.

IBM announced its second greenhouse gas reduction goal this month through the EPA Climate Leaders program -- a commitment to reduce its total global greenhouse gas emissions by 7% from 2005 to 2012.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Bridget Botelho, News Writer

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