by November 3, 2010 0 comments

Do you think that ‘Green IT’ is a fad? Information Technology (IT) has become an inseparable part of modern life; it is deeply integrated in today’s business operations. Dependence on IT; be it our daily individual life or business operations, is growing continuously and will continue to be so in the future too. The 2008 survey by IDC revealed that energy costs were the most pressing reason for the adoption of Green IT.

Excessive and reckless use of IT results in carbon emission. We have seen in the previous article (PCQuest October 2010 issue) that IT does impact our environment. We also learned about ‘carbon footprint’ in IT context (see Table below). In this paradigm, organizations ought to think about making their IT operations ‘Green’.

There are other terms, too, used for denoting ‘Green IT’ —’Green Computing’ and ‘Sustainable IT’ are some of the most well known among them. All of these are comprehensive terms – they describe the development, management, use and disposal of IT equipments in a way that minimizes damage to the environment. ‘Green Computing’ is about using IT-based computing in an environmentally responsible way. Green IT’, therefore, has many different meanings, depending on whether you are a manufacturer, manager or user of technology. From practice perspective, Green IT has four categories:
l Environmentally responsible manufacturing of IT equipment;
l Optimum power management in IT usage; specially in Data Centers;
l Use of ‘Green’ consumables in IT operations;
l Efficient recycling and environmental friendly disposal of IT equipment.

Goals of Green IT
Green IT involves study and practices of using computing resources ‘efficiently’ — note the term ‘efficiency’ — there are many metrics for efficiency indicators in ‘Green IT’ domain — they will be explained in the forthcoming articles. The primary goal of Green IT Program is to account for the ‘Triple Bottom Line’ (the concept explained in the previous article in October 2010 issue of PCQuest). The overall goal of Green IT is to:l Reduce the hazardous materials;
l Maximize energy efficiency during an IT asset’s life time;
l Promote opportunities for ‘recycling’ IT items (i.e. all the IT equipment used in IT operations) and/or
l Promote usage of ‘bio-degradable’ products (when they are retired from use) and also to reduce ‘waste products’.
Journey to ‘Green IT’ involves holistic thinking — it is about managing impact of energy consumption, water use, and waste generation and Green House Gas emissions on the environment (GHGs — green house gases were explained in the previous article). A typical IT operation involves a number of IT as well as non-IT assets. ‘Greening’ your computing environment is a low-risk way for your business to not only help the environment but also reduce costs.

Current Green Thinking and Green Efforts in the IT Industry
Although there is the larger ‘environmental’ angle and ‘triple bottom line’ aspect in Green IT, there are many who argue that ‘Green IT’ is driven primarily from financial benefits in mind rather than the environmental concern. Indeed this is a tricky and debatable issue! There are organizations inclined towards using natural air to cool their IT facilities and people in these organizations see huge benefits on both the environmental and financial fronts. In fact, IT analysts and IT leaders, as well as environmental champions plead that there are plenty of opportunities for technology organizations to create more ‘Earth-friendly operations’ to cut energy needs and slash a company’s carbon footprint (see Table ) while saving money, too. For example the BMS (Building Management Systems) have automated systems with ‘occupancy sensors’ — these sensors regulate energy consumption (lighting, air-conditioning etc.) based on level of occupancy in an IT building (for example in a software development center) and building zones. Another example is use of weather sensors for optimizing the benefits offered by automated solar protection systems. Forrester’s green IT survey of enterprises and small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) indicates that green IT adoption has remained steady during the past year; it still forms a vital part of many IT organizations’ strategy. Cost continues to be the core underlying motivation behind the implementation of green IT. As per IDC survey, 44% of CEOs say IT will play a very important role in efforts to reduce their company’s environmental impact – up from 14 percent of CEOs in 2007.

IT Asset Lifecycle and Green IT
Typical IT assets are Servers, Desktops, Workstations, Network components (routers, switches, cables, fiber optic wires, etc), Printers, Scanners, Data Storage equipments, etc. To date, the vast majority of thinking and activities for improving the IT industry’s environmental stance are focused on the ‘life cycle of hardware assets’ – greening their design, manufacturing, operation, and recycling/disposal. From ‘life cycle’ perspective, an IT asset like any other asset goes through multiple phases.
‘Cradle-to-Grave’ concept means Green procurement practices in the ‘Acquire’ phase (see the figure below) and environment friendly disposal in the ‘Retire’ phase. Recently, however, there has been a lot of interest among IT professionals regarding the software side of the IT industry. Now people ask about its opportunities accelerating green IT and impetus for broader green business initiatives.

The Green IT Action Plan
While CIOs recognize the importance of environmental considerations in planning IT operations, they often are uncertain about how to put that recognition into action. With sustainability rising on the corporate agenda, and the cost, risk, and revenue benefits of green IT becoming more visible than ever, now is the time for CIOs to create and execute on a coherent, comprehensive green IT initiative. The crucial first step is ‘As Is’ analysis through a thorough assessment of their current situation. The aim here is to understand the state of green IT policies and practices within your organization.

Next, organizations can consider rationalization of IT equipment — we have seen in the previous article that IT equipment generates heat and consumes a lot of power for the cooling. For example, in China, the comfort level of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning) has been raised to 26 to 27 degrees centigrade as the basic level in offices. Even this small raise of 3 degrees centigrade can significantly save energy consumption that goes in cooling.

‘Server Virtualization’, ‘IT Equipment Consolidation’ and ‘Cloud Computing’ are the topics closely tied with Green IT discussion. This is because; one of the primary goals of almost all forms of virtualization is making the most efficient use of available system resources so that both cooling costs and energy utilization can go down. It is said that ‘Virtualization’ brings down the number of physical servers required and can reduce floor space by 80% and energy consumption by 40%. It is also argued that ‘Cloud Computing’ can reduce hardware usage by a ratio of 4:1 and administration by a ratio of 7:1.

It seems, however, that many organizations are not yet able to capitalize on their Green IT initiatives -even the ones that are relatively easy and inexpensive to implement. Although developing enterprise-wide green policies is a major undertaking, without reworking entire policies, processes and procedures and without even spending a lot of cash, IT departments can implement some green IT initiatives aimed at reaping the low hanging fruits to show quick results. For example, consider simple things like – opportunities for reducing the number of 24 x 7 applications, reducing the number of nightly processes, discouraging paper printing, discouraging users to run a continuous slide show of
images on their laptops and desktops etc.

Green IT starts with YOU!
While organizations and their CIOs sort out their specific action plans, there are many things we can do as individual to contribute our bit to Green IT:
l When not in use, turn of your desktops/laptops; avoid continuous running of your machines unless when absolutely essential
l Always switch of your machine from the mains and not just at the machine end because an idle machine plugged into mains, also consumes energy — though very small amount, the collective consumption with thousands of users, can be large;
l Avoid fancy screen savers — they do not really save energy!
l Enable power management features on your desktops/laptops;
l Always turn off your computer at night and over the week-end — this is important for employees working from home;
l Remember with efficient software coding and processing you can help Green IT because the CPU cycles and fetch/read/write operations on the disk can be considerably reduced when you make your code efficient!
A workable Green IT action plan at organization level would involve:
l As Is Assessment — Know where you stand today. Study and assess your current policies and practices from Green perspective
l Do we have a Green IT Policy?
l Are we Green?
l How Green are we today?
l To Be Action Plan — How Green we want to be in future? Can we rationalize our IT operations? This may even a deep study or organization structure and operating patterns of your organization
l Reduce — rationalize the amount of IT equipment you have (Virtualization, Consolidation,
l Rationalized Computing/Rationalization of Business Application and IT Infrastructure (consider Cloud Computing option with Caution! See the box ‘Can Cloud Make IT Green’)
l Continuous education — consider making Green IT Awareness module as the part and parcel of new hire induction program. Think about displaying posters with catchy and meaningful messages about saving environment and saving energy — slow poisoning with Green thoughts does work!

The environment friendly technology community has coined the term ‘Green Computing,’ which is the reduction of the pollution and energy footprint of computers. “Green” is Hot!! If you do not have a ‘Green plan’ then you are not cool enough. Green IT has become a popular term for describing things that are good for the environment, generally healthful and, more recently, economically sensible. “Going Green” implies reducing your energy use and pollution footprint. If you are not considering Green IT, you are missing out on cost savings that will benefit IT and your organization.

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