Is green IT a marketing fad?

It seems that green IT has dropped off the radar, with other technology issues moving to the fore. But was green IT ever a real technology movement, or was it just a marketing fad?

It seems that green IT has dropped off the radar, with other technology issues moving to the fore. But was green IT ever a real technology movement, or was it just a marketing fad?

How you answer this question will depend on how you define green IT. For the most part, the industry seems to have attached the term to technologies that reduce energy use, the size of hardware rollouts, and the amount of IT consumables such as paper and ink.

Companies have been pushing hard to pursue these goals, which is understandable, given their massive potential to reduce cost. On the surface this all makes sense.

However look a little bit deeper and things start to get a little bit murky. Hasn't IT, since the beginning of the industry, always steadily improved hardware to reduce energy consumption? After all, the first mainframes would have used an enormous amount of energy to do simple calculations that today could easily be achieved on tiny mobile processors.

It seems the entire history of IT development is full of examples of new technology that can do more with less — less space, less energy, less man hours. Were the engineers and developers thinking about the environment when they built these new systems? I doubt it, they were probably thinking about efficiency.

With technologies such as virtualisation, software has similarly been labelled green, through its ability to massively consolidate servers and reduce energy costs. But isn't this just a new form of the efficiency that IT continues to strive for, and thrives on?

Printer and imagining vendors have also been keen to brand initiatives such as duplex printing as green. But don't people just duplex print to reduce costs? Isn't the movement towards a paperless office about less clutter, more space and better organisation? Since when was it about the environment?

What is also telling is that environmental initiatives that cost rather than save tend to be slow to make it onto the agenda. E-waste recycling in Australia hovers at four per cent of all technology products.

All this leads one to ask the question; as a massive driver of efficiency, isn't IT just inherently green anyway? And if so, why wait until last year to label it that way? Is it not fair to say that this label has been attached to IT because it suits a current social climate?

What do you think?