Sun Microsystems could be the first IT vendor in South Africa to win a stamp of approval from the National Energy Efficiency Agency if an upcoming pilot project can save as much electricity as the computer manufacturer is betting on.
The company has made some bold claims about how much power its CoolThreads servers and Sun Desktop thin clients can save user organisations and these are set to be measured early in the new year when a yet-to-be-named pilot site will have its IT electricity consumption measured before and after implementing Sun's "green" technology.
This is believed to be the first case where an IT vendor has measured its outputs from a power-saving point of view and, if successful, Sun will win the blessing of the NEEA, which is mandated to help reduce the country's energy consumption.
Barry Bredenkamp, who heads up the NEEA, says demand for electricity will grow a lot faster than capacity in the next three to five years.
"Eskom has been around for 90 years," he says. "And we'll need to build the equivalent of another Eskom by 2012."
Until that happens, there is a pressing need for South Africans to reduce the amount of electricity they use – by up to 3MW (Mega-Watts) in the medium-term and up to 8MW in the long-term. This is equivalent to the output of two power stations.
Until recently, Bredenkamp says, IT has slipped under the radar when it comes to cutting power consumption – it's usually not even included in energy audits.
"However, IT does affect the lives of everyone, even people who don't have PCs at home."
Hi cites the example of Germany, which is the biggest supplier of wind-generated electricity in the world. The entire output of its wind farms, however, is used solely to generate enough electricity for standby power – to supply current to machines that are not being used.
Closer to home, Eskom's head office Megawatt Park recently admitted that about half of its electricity bill is consumed by its IT systems.
Sun Microsystems is the first – and, so far, the only – IT vendor to approach the NEEA to measure its electricity output and prove a reduction.
Roger Keyse, global business manager for Sun, says that its CoolThreads server technology can run at a low 70W and takes up less space than comparable systems.
Virtualisation allows companies to consolidate their data centres, increasing their system optimisation and reducing the number of computers needed to perform the same tasks.
The Sun Desktop is a thin client device which Keyse says is a true thin client in that it is completely stateless, with no operating system, applications or disk on board.
This draws a low 4W to 8W, to a maximum of about 12W with a monitor.
He points out that companies need to consider the full eco-system relating to green IT practices and not solely electricity output.
Other elements include the products' manufacture, transportation, performance, efficiency, reliability, refresh rate, re-manufacting and disposal – all of which add up to the cost of eco-sustainable ownership.