Rising energy costs threaten IT expansion

Published 5 October 2006

Power-hungry security solutions may face dark days; energy costs projected to eat up 50 percent of future IT budgets; Internet and software-based approaches gain an edge

Nothing is free in this world, especially not IT security. Data management, data storage, and identity authentication systems cost money, and much of an IT security officer’s job is to suss out the best security his organization can by at the price it is willing to spend. Now he has another worry to contend with: A new Gartner report says rising energy costs threaten to swamp IT budgets over the next few years owing to higher fuel prices, green technology, and increased environmental regulations. This is bad news for IT security vendors who haven’t been paying attention to energy efficiency, but good news for stand-off software and Internet-based approaches that ask for little more than bandwidth and a small slice of memory.

Although energy costs typically account for 10-30 percent of an organization’s IT costs, this “could rise to more than 50 percent in the next few years. The bottom line is that the cost of power on this scale would be difficult to manage simply as a budget increase and most CIOs would struggle to justify the situation to company board members,” says Gartner’s Rakesh Kumar. Air conditioning, switches, uninterrupted power supplies, and network attached storage all contribute to the problem. Adding layers of IT security only makes the matter worse, as do business continuity efforts because redundancy drains efficiency in the short-term.

Despite the obvious need, the market for better energy-efficient computing is only now getting off the ground. Google, whose massive data centers and large number of servers give it better motivation than most to solve the problem, believes that current hardware is the problem: power supply units (PSU), engineers there believe, waste 30 to 45 percent of their power, a number they think they can get down to ten. Chip makers, for their part, are begining to tout their products’ performance per watt. Intel recently unveiled the Xeon 5300, which it claims has “a thermal design power of as little as 50w,” Ars Technica reported. Until the market fully responds, however, companies can only do a better job managing what they already have. “Virtualization and better workload balancing” are two useful recommendations.

-read more in Eric Bangeman Ars Technica report