This Week in Sustainability: Week of February 27

Green Blog

The Official Blog of Microsoft's
Environmental Sustainability Team

This Week in Sustainability: Week of February 27

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Beginning today, we’re starting a weekly blog series highlighting sustainability news from around the web. We’d welcome your input about this series and about important developments in the industry and world at large.

Those of us working in sustainability are keenly aware that going green can mean saving green. When we cut energy use, or find ways to manage resources more efficiently, there’s a great potential for cutting costs and becoming more sustainable.

clip_image002Computerworld ran a story on Monday about the need for organizations to improve how they monitor and manage energy use and costs. As incredible as it sounds, and as we discussed in our whitepaper The IT Energy Efficiency Imperative, a typical data center uses less than 5% of the energy it consumes for actual computing –the rest is lost due to various overheads and inefficiencies. And compounding that problem is the reality that many IT departments’ servers are drastically under-utilized. Most of these servers work at less than 10 percent of their capacity, but suck up about half of the energy that they would when running at full capacity. While virtualization management software and other IT solutions can certainly help, real progress may require us to change the way we measure success in IT. If CFOs knew that their expensive servers were less than 10 percent utilized, it’s likely that additional justification would be required before more servers were approved for purchase. And if architects and developers of software applications were incented to design apps with efficiency in mind, we might see better IT resource utilization.

Another post on the New York Times’ Green blog looked at an Energy Department study that examined available sites across the United States for building power plants of varying types (advanced coal, solar thermal, etc). The study set out to understand the requirements and siting options for our country to building various energy generation technologies. As a cloud computing company, where we locate our data centers is one of the most important decisions we make as a company, especially as it impacts our environmental footprint. Among the many variables that Microsoft considers when choosing a datacenter site design and location, are proximity to reliable power, clean energy sources, and our impact on other natural resources. The findings from this study could help planners in many industries adapt the power systems to achieve environmental goals while also managing natural resources for effectively.

clip_image004We were also pleased to see a new study released this week by the USGBC (and profiled by that shows that green buildings not only use less energy to operate, but are also safer and more durable. We’ve learned a tremendous amount about our own buildings on Microsoft’s Redmond campus through a “smart buildings project” that we announced in a white paper last October. In addition to energy efficient, safe and durable, we would probably add a more “productive workforce” to that list as well. As a result of the additional layer of analytics we now have in our buildings, Microsoft’s building engineers can automatically identify issues with building equipment across an entire real estate portfolio without needing to wait for long-cycle manual diagnostics or random spot-checks…ultimately making their work more efficient and productive.

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