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There seems to be an increasing amount of nuance being applied to
term "green IT" these days that appears to have more to do with the
amount of green in the IT budget rather than how green IT is in terms
of the environment.

When you think about it, we have now gone through three phases of
green IT. The first phase was all about saving carbons and the
environment. But when the price of oil climbed above $100 a barrel, the
green IT issue quickly became about saving money on power and cooling
costs because electricity prices were climbing in many of the major
markets of the United States.

But now oil prices have fallen, and although electricity costs still
vary widely, the emphasis on green IT is shifting once again. In fact,
it’s becoming code for saving IT jobs. In the economy, customers are
now casting about for any way to save money short of reducing the IT
staff. Whether that is misguided or not is debatable, but reasoning is
that it’s a lot easier to eliminate machines than people, who might be
hard to find should the economy ever recover.

The end result is that term "green IT" is now being more closely
associated with the phrase "total cost of ownership." As much as people
like the idea of saving the environment, the thing that gets them
interested in green IT these days is the concept of lower total costs
of ownership over the lifecycle of the equipment.

This slight shift has not been lost on some of the major vendors.
IBM this week has launched a “Ready for Energy & Environment”
program for a select group of partners that IBM has validated as having
a real green proposition. The program right now is limited to about 30
partners for 2009 and includes hardware vendors such as APC and Red Hat
alongside software vendors such as KLG Systel, which markets an energy
management system that runs on top of IBM software. In launching the
program, IBM executives say they are trying to cut through all the
“greenwashing” noise of the day in order to bring real green IT
products to market.

IBM isn’t the only vendor pushing green IT in a down economy. Cisco
has launched a number of initiatives intended to lower the cost of
enterprise networking by reducing the amount of power and cooling
required. SAP has rolled out its own energy management system and even
smaller vendors such as Sentilla have come out with sensors designed to
specifically monitor the flow of heat through a data center.

What all this means for solution providers is that it’s time to stop
merely saluting the green IT flag. What customers are looking for is a
more thoughtful approach that lowers the total cost of computing in a
way that helps them keep a lot of the IT staff intact during these
difficult economic times. That means they don’t want to be pitched a
bunch of random products that happen to be green, but rather an overall
transformation of their IT environment based on a green solution that
allows them to tell senior management that they are taking concrete
steps to lower the total cost of computing, while improving the
company’s environmental track record.

When you get right down to it, green IT is a complex endeavor. And
as every solution provider knows, wherever there is complexity, there’s

Mike Vizard is senior vice
president of market strategies and content services at Ziff Davis
Enterprise and a regular contributor to Channel Insider.