Gartner dumps on Green Grid

Consultancy Gartner has "strong reservations" about the tangible results The Green Grid will produce and says the consortium is missing an opportunity to tackle broader environmental issues. But members cry foul.

Gartner Inc. has accused a vendor group formed to improve energy efficiency in data centers of failing to address broader environmental issues.

It's impossible to try boiling the ocean on the first pass.
Bruce Shaw
director of worldwide server workstation marketingAdvanced Micro Devices
In a new research note, several analysts at Gartner wrote that while The Green Grid will produce "tangible information" for companies trying to solve power and cooling problems in their data centers, the consortium is missing an opportunity to explore other environmental issues, such as recycling old equipment (e-waste) and removing toxic materials from its manufacturing process.

Bruce Shaw, director of worldwide server workstation marketing at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and a member of The Green Grid's board of directors, said the group isn't ignoring the broader issues of IT and the environment.

"I think something has been missed in [Gartner's] analysis," Shaw said. "All the points they are making are correct, but the difficulty in getting competitors together to talk about intellectual property, it's impossible to try boiling the ocean on the first pass."

Shaw said at the outset the group knew addressing all issues would be difficult, and acknowledged that down the road it might expand what The Green Grid currently addresses. But ultimately, it wanted to look at the data center alone.

"The data center is the most tangible area that we could address first and succeed. When we get that under our belt, then we can expand into other areas."

But Gartner's criticism didn't focus solely on the group's lack of scope. It also warned that the consortium's membership is heavy on vendors and short on end-user organizations, which might make its work less relevant to users.

"If this is a 'supplier push' initiative there is the risk that the vendors just push out what they have and what they know," said Simon Mingay, a research vice president at Gartner who contributed to the research. "If users are involved and have influence they will create a 'demand pull,' which will force more material innovation and creativity. It needs to result in real innovation and change, not just the promotion of solutions they already have sitting on the shelves."

The Green Grid, formed in April 2006, is a nonprofit consortium aimed at addressing power and cooling issues in the data center. Its 11-member board of directors is stocked with representatives from leading vendors such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc., Dell Inc., Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices. The consortium's first order of business is to create metrics for effectively measuring data center power consumption.

In Gartner's new research, the analysts said The Green Grid members are facing a "balancing act" as they try to collaborate on common standards while simultaneously developing proprietary technologies that will differentiate them in the market.

"Self-interest may prove a stronger motive than a common interest," the research warned.

Shaw acknowledged that getting competing companies to work together for the common good is a challenge. AMD's archrival Intel is also involved with the consortium.

"IP [intellectual property] is always the question," Shaw said. "If you put smart minds in a room who are involved in engineering products and making solutions, the natural byproduct of getting people together to discuss issues in those forums is intellectual property. We do want innovation. One of the things that was most difficult to overcome was making sure how IP was to be handled."

Shaw said the vendors who formed the consortium early on had to work out the ground rules for how to handle innovative ideas that developed during discussions to make sure there weren't any battles over intellectual property. This was, in part, why end-user organizations weren't heavily recruited at the beginning.

More on The Green Grid
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Energy consortium takes aim at bottom line
"The decision was made early on to set up the board and get the bylaws and charter established for the rules going forward," Shaw said. "Now we've expanded it and opened it up to end-user membership and are actively pursuing them. We've had hundreds of requests [from end users] for membership."

Shaw said he agrees that end-user representation is sorely needed in The Green Grid.

"A metric is no good if only the vendors set it," he said. "It needs to be customer-centric. Customers have to be able to use the data. The information has to be useful to them when they're running their operation."

Mingay warned that The Green Grid needs criteria for admitting end-user members.

"The Green Grid set its membership criteria to include any IT professionals who have something to add," Mingay said. "Consortia like this would produce much better outcomes if they had more well-informed end-user organizations contributing."

The analysts also wrote that several governments, particularly in North America, will produce legislation in the next few years that will regulate the environmental impact of information and communication technology. The analysts suggested that The Green Grid should be lobbying those governments.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Writer

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