Amid the sharp displays and booths offering up the latest gadgets and gizmos at the annual CeBIT trade and technology fair, the key undercurrent is the greening of the industry.
The agenda for the international industry gathering March 4-9 has given a nod to concerns about climate debate worldwide. Many of the 5,845 exhibitors from 77 countries are touting developments such as servers that use less electricity, and data centers that don't emit any carbon dioxide.
Bernd Bischoff, chief executive of the German-Japanese Fujitsu Siemens, said his company is repositioning itself as the "first IT manufacturing who is going to switch completely to energy-efficient products at affordable prices." He said the company aims to find "the balance" between the needs of its customers, primarily data-hungry businesses, without putting the environment at risk.
While a technology trade fair is more likely to draw references to the latest cell phones, slim laptops or giant flat-screen televisions, focusing on green concerns at the event helps to set the tone for the industry worldwide, said Achim Berg, the general manager of Microsoft Germany.
"This is by far the biggest trade fair in the world," he said.
Sebastian Krause, vice president of IBM's Software Group in Germany said because of CeBIT's reach, the ideas presented there are absorbed and taken back to countries elsewhere.
"This is the place where the agenda of the IT sector is defined," he said.
In order to bring the spotlight more on the concept of Green IT, the fair is working with the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, a group founded in 2007 with the participation of Microsoft Corp., Google Inc., Intel Corp., IBM Corp. and others.
Its objectives are to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases caused by the use of computers by 54 million tons annually. Cisco Systems Inc. manager Jan Roschek estimates that the IT sector is responsible for about 2 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.
Striving for more efficient energy use, the IT industry is also examining how it can cut costs, too. If the far-reaching objectives were realized, some $5.5 billion in electricity costs could be saved, the CSCI has said.
CeBIT itself is also underlining the need for more green, showcasing its own exhibition space with a demonstration office to see how greener solutions can be used day to day in the workplace.
"It is also a matter of pointing out to every single person how he or she can make his or her own contribution to climate protection and cost cutting", CeBIT director Sven-Michael Prueser said.
Using the hardware of chip maker Intel, Sun Microsystems Inc. is erecting a data center on grounds of the fair. The electricity needed to power it will be gathered by solar cells.
"Sure, Green IT is hype, but it's also an issue that will keep us busy for a long time," said Thomas Tauer, director of IBM Germany's site and facilities service.