IT buyers won't make sacrifices to go green

Survey reveals unwillingness to bear costs of environmentally-friendly moves

Green is in, right? Maybe, but a large number of IT shops aren't willing to sacrifice performance even if it would help the environment, according to a new survey.

Hosting provider Rackspace surveyed 3,000 customers this year and last year, and found some results suggesting businesses are losing interest in green technology.

Sixty-three percent of customers this year said they are not willing to sacrifice any server performance to lower carbon emissions. Last year, only 41% of survey respondents were unwilling to sacrifice performance to reduce global warming emissions.

In last year's survey, 8% of Rackspace's customers were unwilling to pay a premium for green products and services, such as renewable energy, recycling, conservation or carbon offsets. This year, 30% said they wouldn't be prepared to pay a premium for such environmentally friendly products.

In addition, although last year more than half of respondents said they would pay 5% to 10% more for services from a "green" vendor, only 41% were willing to do so this year.

Eleven percent of businesses said they are not concerned about their impact on the environment — and doubt they ever will be.

Rackspace CTO John Engates was surprised by how many people aren't willing to sacrifice any server performance for environmental gains. What wasn't surprising, he says, is that people seem less willing to pay premiums for green services this year.

"Last year, people were willing to make some sacrifices and pay a little more," Engates says. "Today, with the economic times and the cost of energy and fuel, green has taken a back seat," he says.

That might seem short-sighted, given that environmentally friendly technologies theoretically should help customers save money by improving energy efficiency. The results may be skewed by Rackspace's customers, most of whom aren't running their own datacentres. Rackspace hasn't upped its prices to reflect the higher cost of energy, Engates notes.

Engates suspects, however, there might be a similar unwillingness to adopt green technologies among people who run their own datacentres, because IT managers typically aren't responsible for energy costs.

"A lot of times, people who make the decisions about what equipment to purchase are not the same [ones] who pay the energy bill," Engates says. "If the price were transparent all the way through the system, much like gasoline is, they might consider paying more for greener technology."

Rackspace's survey targeted 3,000 of the company's highest-paying customers, which range from small outfits that rent a half-dozen servers to divisions of Fortune 500 companies. Most customers are using Rackspace servers to power websites.

Rackspace conducted the survey via email primarily to figure out what types of products customers want.

Another recent survey, conducted by the BPM (Business Performance Management) Forum, found that 86% out of the 150 IT profgessionals it surveyed are concerned about their impact on the environment, but only 41% had any specific green plans in place.

Some IT pros think green technology is too expensive upfront, and are suspicious of vendors slapping a "green" tag on products that aren't all that environmentally friendly.

Enterprise architect Samuel Ramos of the Oregon Department of Transportation told Network World in April that he thinks vendors like to "shine up" old products and call them green.

"There is a lot of hype, and it's hard to discern the difference between things that have been 'green-washed' and things that are really green IT," says Forrester analyst James Staten.

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