Inside, Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ - news - people ) is building one of the most powerful--and sustainable--data centers in the world. We've deployed industry-standard hardware to democratize the massive computing power once trapped in mainframes. Automation and virtualization enable that power to be flexed, scaled and shared. Intelligent software translates the raw data captured into meaningful information.
But that's just the beginning. We've applied a systems approach to the entire building and its surrounding environment, from the sensors used to light the rows of servers to the roof that will collect runoff rainwater for landscaping and fire protection. And we're leveraging the cold wind blowing off the North Sea to lower temperatures of the information technology (IT) equipment. We anticipate energy savings of 40%. When complete, the facility will be one of the largest and most efficient in Europe.
In the context of the current environmental debate, this data center is one example of the IT industry addressing its own energy use and carbon footprint.
Currently, 2% of global carbon emissions are generated by IT. As an industry, we have an obligation to continually improve. But the greater opportunity is using IT to address the other 98%. This may drive the 2% slightly higher, but it will shrink the overall pie. The ability to harness the power of sustainable data centers, like the one in Wynyard, to project intelligence broadly into society will drive greater efficiency across the global economy.
With that power in hand, we can apply information technology to energy-intensive and carbon-heavy processes in three ways: We can make them more transparent, more efficient and lighter.
When it comes to energy, transparency drives behavior. New technologies are helping individual consumers and large enterprises tap into the smart grid--a priority for governments around the world--and better measure, understand and conserve energy use. For example, new software connects traditional utilities infrastructures to intelligent IT systems to enable accurate insight into water consumption, from the pipeline to the meter to the customer billing system. Detroit Water and Sewerage, the third-largest water and sewer utility in the U.S., has implemented HP's Advanced Meter Infrastructure solution to do just that. In the process, they've realized a productivity gain of 15%.
Technology is also helping us be more efficient with the energy we use. Always connected devices deliver the right information to the right place at the right time, reducing waste and increasing productivity. An even greater opportunity lies in breakthrough nanotechnology. Networks of billions of nano-scale sensors can be embedded in buildings, agricultural fields and large-scale structures and connected to sustainable data centers to automatically provision energy resources. The potential outcome: electricity and heat matched seamlessly to demand; water and fertilizer optimized to sensitive measurements in the soil; maintenance performed on the Brooklyn Bridge exactly when needed.
But ultimately, the goal is making the world lighter, also called "dematerialization." Information technology can help replace energy-intensive and carbon-heavy methods--with basic materials, business processes or entire business models. Think of how the digital transformation has completely redefined the production and distribution of music.
Extend that model more broadly: By 2012, all of the servers in the world will use as much power as was used by all of Mexico in 2007. Breakthroughs in photonics allow us to use light instead of copper wire to transmit data. Not only can we reduce the use of natural resources, we can dramatically reduce energy consumption, taking another step forward from the work we've done at Wynyard.
Another significant advantage of the intelligent, industry-standard infrastructure is the ability to support innovative services affordably. Take digital print-on-demand, for example. Up to 30% of traditional book stock goes unsold. Digital printing technology combined with a service interface allows books to be personalized, printed and delivered only when that book is sold. We can eliminate overruns, dramatically reducing carbon emissions and waste. We see a very near future in which each copy of a best seller is personalized and has a home.
HP will continue to focus on the energy issue, but a larger effort is required. The goal is nothing less than a transformation in the way we organize and operate our society. As we work toward COP15, the United Nations Climate Change conference in December, governments and industry need to show leadership by investing in and deploying new technologies. It's 2009. Yet we still manage our energy resources as if it were 1959.
Innovation is the variable that will change the energy equation. Fortunately, unlike other energy assets, innovation is not in short supply.