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Windows Server Goes Green

When Microsoft celebrates the latest launches of Windows Server, SQL Server, and Visual Studio later this month, one of the talking points will be energy savings. With that in mind, InformationWeek recently sat down with Microsoft's new chief environmental strategist, Rob Bernard.
When Microsoft celebrates the latest launches of Windows Server, SQL Server, and Visual Studio later this month, one of the talking points will be energy savings. With that in mind, InformationWeek recently sat down with Microsoft's new chief environmental strategist, Rob Bernard.Bernard looks a lot like a little younger Bill Gates. He's got the thin face, slightly shaggy yet kempt hair and slightly oversized ears. But while Gates is becoming a part timer, Bernard's got a big new job on his hands.

Along with a whole lot of other promotional material hyping the launch, Microsoft will put out a document detailing the energy savings companies could see by moving to Microsoft's latest operating system, database software, and development platform. Bernard's the one who's working hard to make that happen.

Though he didn't have the stats with him the day we met him, Bernard ticked off a list of features that he says could save businesses on their power bills: virtualization, power management tools, a new SQL Server feature called Resource Governor. Virtualization keeps power use down by decreasing the number of physical servers a company has to run; resource governor does it by throttling database throughout. Even features like compression can save power by allowing customers to put more into a single server.

It's difficult for Microsoft to come up with exact measurements of exactly how much money a company could save on power with these new releases, because every environment is different. "There's so much variability," Bernard says. That said, internal Microsoft studies done on Windows Server 2008 show that companies using a full slate of power management tools can save up to 40% on power with those tools alone. That number seems high, but keep in mind these are Microsoft measurements.

But that's only the bare minimum of his job, the details of which seemed still in flux when we met him after 60 days on the job. "I'm looking at, end-to-end for Microsoft, how do we look at environmental issues in everything we do," he said. "That covers corporate governance, carbon output, our value proposition, and how we think about our strategic relationships."

Microsoft itself has to have energy efficiency in mind these days. Those billions the company is sinking into its data centers are compounded by the costs of power. Energy consumption at a new Microsoft data center in Ireland will likely be 50% that of similar-sized data centers elsewhere because Microsoft puts so much consideration into energy efficiency when locating, building, and operating its data centers.

Bernard's working with many of Microsoft's product teams to try to get them to develop software that runs more efficiently, and is reaching out to hardware manufacturers, chipset makers, and channel partners to do the same. "Every one of these guys has a role in addressing energy efficiency," he said. Microsoft's even built a plug-in for its Dynamics AX ERP software to allow SMBs to measure and manage their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

There also are corporate citizenship efforts to oversee. A full-time employee works in Microsoft's corporate citizenship group focusing solely on Microsoft's environmental efforts, such as working with the Clinton Foundation Climate Initiative to develop tools to allow cities to better understand their carbon footprint. And this year's Imagine Cup, Microsoft's student innovation contest, will focus on technology that enables a "sustainable environment."