Technologies that help businesses use power more efficiently should become a bigger money-maker in the next decade, even if surging demand for data means overall energy use in the tech sector will still rise.
Executives at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit this week said businesses often see saving money as a way to help reduce their environmental impact by cutting waste, particularly of power.
IBM, for example, consults with customers on how to streamline power use in their data centers, sometimes even forestalling the need to build new facilities.
"In the fourth quarter we did $300 million worth of business signings in green data centers," IBM CFO Mark Loughridge said, referring to deals to develop computer operations that consume less power.
"There's going to be more demand," he said.
EMC has introduced data storage systems that use less power by spinning down disk drives when they aren't being used, for instance.
"We are trying to help customers manage that growth," EMC CFO David Goulden said. "They equate green to energy costs and energy being one of the biggest drivers of data center costs."
With data use growing at about 60 percent annually, total energy use will rise from the technology sector, executives predicted. But companies will find ways to reduce individual consumption.
"If you look at power consumed per employee, I absolutely expect that we will consume less power because we are driving things like server consolidation," Symantec COO Enrique Salem said.
One major form of server consolidation is the push to use software to let a single computer do the work of many machines, a process known as virtualization, which also saves energy.
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