IT users are unsure of the implications of green IT and where to invest their technology budgets – and Gartner believes this confusion will continue for some years to come in what is a rapidly-changing segment of the industry.

"The IT industry is saturated with green IT talk," says Rakesh Kumar, research vice-president at Gartner. "Conferences, presentations and consultants are springing up to provide guidance and advice on a range of issues that are being codified under the generic term of green IT. Unfortunately, with so much hype, users are left with a sense of confusion about where and when they should invest their time and money."
There is a great deal of uncertainty about which green technologies and products are actually available today and which may become available in the future. The future "productisation" of technologies will not just depend on the maturity of the design but also on the prevailing market conditions and the possibility of future legislation.
However, Gartner research shows that the spectrum of green technologies, services and legislation that users need to focus on can be broken down into short-term (immediate), midterm and long-term activities. The immediate issues affect the next 24 months and need to yield a quick return on investment while the midterm category covers the next five years. The long-term category covers products and activities that are, by nature, rather esoteric and may never become mainstream.
The immediate Green IT issues that users should focus on centre on power, cooling and floor space problems in data centres and office environments.
With this in mind, Gartner has identified eight important areas for users to focus on during the next 24 months:
* Modern data centre facilities' design concepts;
* Advanced cooling technologies;
* Use of modelling and monitoring software;
* Virtualisation technologies for server consolidation;
* Processor design and server efficiency;
* Energy management for the office environment;
* Integrated energy management for the software environment; and
* Combined heat and power.
During the next two to five years, many green technologies will mature and become important to IT groups looking to develop greener IT organisations.
However, much of the planning and assessing of the appropriateness and cost of using these new products needs to be examined earlier and in the context of an overall IT strategy. This is especially the case where government legislation (affecting building design, for example) may come into force.
Gartner highlights eight areas in this category:
* Green IT procurement;
* Green asset life-cycle programmes;
* Environmental labelling of servers and other devices;
* Videoconferencing;
* Changing people's behaviours;
* Green accounting in IT;
* Green legislation in data centres; and
* Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and IT programmes.
There are many green IT technologies, services and projects that will span the next five to 20 years. Much of the industry hype (or "greenwash") sits in this area and is causing confusion for users. They are unclear about whether carbon-trading programmes will become the norm, or whether it will be possible to recycle energy from data centres in a simple and cost-effective way.
Gartner has identified the following seven areas to focus on:
* Carbon offsetting and carbon trading;
* Data centre heat recycling;
* Alternative energy sources;
* Software efficiency;
* Green building design;
* Green legislation; and
* Green chargeback.