Ballmer At CeBIT: Microsoft Wants To Be More Green

"The notion of sustainability is an important issue really for all of us," Ballmer told a gathering of about 500 journalists at a press conference in Hanover, Germany. "We're focused on opportunities to reduce power consumption by the IT industry, and to use IT as a tool for core scientific research that will fundamentally change the way energy gets produced and used."

Scientific research is undergoing a significant transformation as a result of high performance scientific computing clusters that can be built around the PC architecture, Ballmer said, adding that Microsoft has an entire group dedicated to making its products more suitable for scientific research, focusing on energy, environment, pharmaceutical and other disciplines.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talks about his company's future push into the green IT realm at the CeBIT show in Hanover, Germany

"If we really want to be more green, then we need the scientific research that powers green energy," Ballmer said.

Microsoft has also taken steps to dramatically reduce power consumption at both the PC and server level. While Windows XP used 100 watts per hour during PC idle time, Vista uses just 3 watts per hour, according to Ballmer.

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Microsoft has also slashed power consumption in Windows Server 2008 by 40 percent, which will have major positive implications for data center energy needs, Ballmer said. "Microsoft is one of the largest companies with regard to data center needs, and a big issue for us to reduce our power consumption," he said.

Ballmer cited recent data center project launches in Dublin, San Antonio, and Quincy, Wash., the last of which is situated next to a hydroelectric plant, enabling its power consumption to have less environmental impact. "We focus on total Co2 output that comes from the power we use in data centers," Ballmer said.

The $500 million facility in Dublin, unveiled in November, will be Microsoft's first major data center outside the U.S. and will be used to host the servers for Microsoft's Windows Live services.

But Microsoft's green IT initiatives aren't limited to data centers and PCs themselves, said Ballmer, who stressed the importance Microsoft places on finding the right partners to further its goals in this area. "It's important to partner with others who build technology that helps people manage their own use of power," he said.

Microsoft's German partner Yello Strom offers a set of tools and technologies that run on PCs and allow households to manage and minimize their individual power consumption, noted Ballmer. "We've already seen power consumption reduced by up to 10 percent or more in families that have deployed these tools," he said.

Perhaps saving the details for his keynote speech later Monday, Ballmer briefly touched on Microsoft's rollout this week of Search Server 2008, a free download that complements higher end functions of Office Sharepoint Server, and the release of beta versions of hosted Sharepoint and Exchange services.

"We will now have Sharepoint and Exchange in the [cloud] and available to organizations of all sizes," Ballmer said. "Our strategy with all these online services is to let customers take advantage of the power of the cloud, but with control over enterprise needs."