Kill a server, get a rebate

Now here’s an interesting story that I completely missed. Pacific Gas & Electric Company last month began paying corporate customers to reduce the number of servers they run. The giant California utility, reports Larry Dignan, is giving companies cash rebates for using virtualization software to consolidate their applications onto fewer servers. The rebates typically amount to between $150 and $300 for each server removed and can add up to as much as $4 million per site. Speaking at a conference today, Diane Greene, president of VMware, the leading virtualization vendor, said that “several other power companies” are considering launching similar programs.

I take this as a further indication that we’ll soon see a growing public awareness of the vast energy demands of modern computing operations. 2007 may be the year that environmental activists begin targeting corporate data centers. That would give another big push to virtualization, not to mention utility computing.

3 thoughts on “Kill a server, get a rebate

  1. marc moore

    Strange, I’d have thought that standard cost reduction planning would drive companies to that decision on their own.

    How does PG&E plan to verify that servers are decommissioned?

    Right idea, wrong mechanism, to my way of thinking.

  2. Thomas Otter


    Earlier this year I presented at a computer law conference in Edinburgh.

    Ray Corrigan presented a super paper.

    The Second Law and Rivalrous Digital Information (Or Maxwell’s Demon in an Information Age)

    It is available here:

    He picks up on some research done about 35 years ago by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen.

    I’ll quote the introduction here.

    About 35 years ago a Romanian exile in the US, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen wrote about the impact of the economic process on the environment. He used a fundamental though not widely known law of nature called the second law of thermodynamics to explain that consuming endlessly, without thinking about how natural resources were going to be replenished, would be likely to have consequences. That law and Georgescu-Roegen’s thoughts then have implications for the knowledge society.

    There is a widespread belief that once information is digitised it can be copied and distributed at zero marginal cost but digital information fundamentally depends on access to a source of energy. And it turns out that large data centres and servers use up a lot of energy. The big technology companies’ energy bills can run into hundreds of millions of dollars. In a world facing an energy crisis that means digital information is a little more rivalrous than we originally thought…

  3. acohen

    PG&E has been at the forefront of helping companies reduce their energy useage. Sun Microsystems’ eco-responsible servers, whose processors use about the same amount of energy as a household lightbulb, have been selected to receive PG&E’s first energy rebate for servers. You can save up to $1000 by submitting your request to PG&E. More info found at Full disclosure – I am the marcomm person for Suns’ eco initiative. Also feel free to check out my blog at

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