Friday 23 August 2013

Green Fatigue - An open blogletter to Andrew Fryer and Peter Judge

An open letter to Peter Judge and Andrew Fryer

Morning Guys,

I'll come on to the video later but I would like to dissect the following article from Andrew's blog post on techweek europe dated the 22nd August the actual link is here Green Fatigue and reproduced below with my comments in italics.

I recently got asked to do an interview on  for TechWeek Europe about green initiatives in the IT industry. However let’s be honest, computers burn a lot of power, require a lot of power to make and are made of some nasty exotic compounds and chemicals, so they aren’t going to save the planet by themselves.

No, this is true, but its what they can do that is the real game-changer, think of green IT as a platform, a road if you will, to allow the greening of the supply chain in all areas of life, logistics, energy, smart grids etc, all will requires compute.

However a few years back everyone was talking about Green IT, and more properly sustainable IT, and while that topic is no longer trending, we don’t seem to have done anything about it and Green Fatigue has set in across IT .

Green Fatigue has NOT set in across IT, it is more that the large corporates look to the tech companies to provide them with solutions and they, the tech co's are only interested in revenue for server/desktop/application sales and do not have the capability to look holistically across the systems.
Its called "Green IT by default" and it assumes that the technology companies will embed greenness throughout their sales process.
Another problem is the silo mentality of large corporates, servers there, desktops here, networking over there, and storage in the cupboard at the back, how on earth can you implement a "green IT system, when you have competing silo's, this in my opinion is the fault of the senior management teams not willing to really look at Green IT.
Perhaps it is too difficult for them, if so , move over and let some real professionals take charge.

There is a very clear pathway to becoming green in the ICT sector, but it involves a radical analysis and change process, something IT doesn't do very well as all.
So, how to rectify? This requires an education process, something we do as independent consultants, we explain concepts and technologies rather than silo's and products, we look down from a high level and in all honesty, the implementation of proper Green IT in an organisation is going to be difficult and challenging.

Looking at what has been happening in the data centre then good work has been done, but not in the name of green IT. For example server consolidation has meant physical servers are better utilised now; they are typically running 10+ VMs each rather than idling at 10%.

Visualization is a recognised Green IT action

We have also got better at cooling those servers, but this has sometimes been driven not by a green initiative but because of the cost of power and the capacity available from the power supplier in a particular location.

No, it is a green initiative, but its not a green IT initiative, its because cooling and power is in the realm of facilities managers not IT managers, there needs to be collaboration between the two departments, some corporate IT organisations have merged facilities and IT but only in the data centre area, most co-location and hosting companies recognise that the two departments need to be co-located, some even have professionals with skills in both IT and M&E.

Later versions of virtualisation technologies always make best use of the latest hardware but swapping out server hardware to get the benefits of the latest CPU or networking has to be balanced against the cost of making the new server and disposing of the old one, so you’ll want to focus on how you can extend the life of your servers possibly by just upgrading the software.

This is the technology companies fault, stop enhancing the server platform so frequently then, most servers just need to do what it says on the tin, they don't need to be ever faster or process larger amounts of data every two years, you wouldn't upgrade a car this often. Perhaps the industry needs to re-evaluate its business model.

Virtualisation by itself can also cause more problems for the environment than it solves because while you  have achieved some consolidations you may well end up with a lot more VMs that aren’t doing much useful work.  Effective management of those VMs is the key to efficiency for example:
  • Elimination of  Virtual Machine sprawl.  Typically this shows itself as a spread of numerous dev and test environments, and the only way I can think of to check this over use of resources is to charge the consumer for them on the basis of what they have committed to use so chargeback or at least showback.
  • Dynamically optimising a workloads based on demand – Reducing the capacity of low priority under used services or stopping them altogether to free up resources for busy services without needing more hardware.  
  • Extreme Automation to reduce the number of IT guys per VM, these reduces the footprint per VM as each member of IT uses energy to do their work and often has to travel to work so if this can be distributed across more VMs than that is more efficient.
Its called "server creep" and its the management of the IT estate and the data centre that is at issue here, I don't know if that's a green IT thing, but its certainly a management thing.
These three things are actually all key characteristics of clouds so my assertion is that cloud computing is more environmentally efficient, without necessarily being Green IT per se.  Given the fact that public clouds operate at much greater scale and efficiencies than what is possible in many internal data centres1 plus they are often located specifically to take account favourable environmental conditions all of which means they are greener than running services in house.

 Aha, now the real thrust of the Microsoft evangelist, selling cloud services, the "greenness of the cloud" is a much cited concept, and you know I really really want to believe it, but its simply not true, perhaps some of cloud data centres are greener, but greener than what exactly?, this report The Environmental Benefits of Moving to the riddled with caveats and assumptions and does not take into account the network energy (although some would say that this is so small as to be not worth considering), but just looking at the CRC table for the UK indicates that BT is the 3rd largest emitter of CO2, and that in the top 100, ten data centre companies feature.

The takeup of cloud is not as assured as you might think, there are plenty of organisations who have cloud trials underway, and invariably security, and cost concerns, yes the cost of cloud servers gets larger over time compared to in house facilities are swaying the result, after all if you put all your eggs in one cloudy basket, how many IT staff do you need in house?

So we are getting greener, it’s just we don’t call it that, and no doubt no that we are fed up with the word cloud as applied to IT we’ll change that to something else as well. 

We are mostly NOT getting greener, Jeavons paradox sees to that, but in certain quarters we are getting more efficient, there is still a lot more work to be done, and may I say it needs a more radical approach to the problem than what we are getting from the tech companies now.

Now to the video...

Andrew says that audiences turn off when he mentions "Green IT", and start to fidget, oh dear, perhaps he needs to enhance his presenting skills, when I present about Green IT I have the audience eating out of the palm of my hand, perhaps this is due to the fact that I'm not selling anything, except the notion that ICT can help reduce the impacts of climate change.

Cloud Computing is a new name for Green IT, WHAT?  get out of here Andrew, cloud computing is not Green IT, it is however a small part of a Green IT system.

Then he talks about cooling, raising the temperatures in the Data Centres, well the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres (Energy Efficiency) as well as other Global codes and guidance cover this in detail.

Then we have another veiled sales pitch, our data centres are located in the same place as Google and Amazon, so we're all green together, ahem, perhaps the greenest data centre is one that uses renewable energy, liquid cooling or the latest low energy, low heat ARM chips and can be located anywhere on the planet.

Now I'm sure Andrew means well, but in all honestly Techweek should be looking a bit wider if it wants so real intel on Green IT and where it is going.

Green IT is alive and kicking and it most certainly is not suffering from tiredness, it just needs to become a bit more market savvy and educate the people as to what it is, and how it can do it.

We'll be presenting our views in the BCS Green IT SG debate on the 29th October 2013 in London, the debate "Is a digital Britain, a greener Britain" will be proposed by myself and opposed by the stalwart Dr Ian Bitterlin, tickets and further details will be advised closer to the date.

Andrew/Peter, you are both cordially invited to attend and to put your views across.

And I'm available for interview at any time.

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