Sunday 4 August 2013

What is Green IT?

Good question, even IT can mean different things to different people so there's no reason why Green IT should be any different.
So, whilst scanning my tweet app on Sunday morning I noticed one of my followers had posed a link to this article

I had to read it a number of times before it made any sense!

I'm going to reproduce the article here in chunks and put my take on the argument with hopefully some answers for the author.

"Having a closer look at the impact of information technology (IT) on our environment, researchers, governments, funding organizations and companies have begun to move in the direction of green IT. But what is green IT? Depending on the research and/or the interest of a group, company, university, etc., there are multiple definitions, some of which take into account only one particular issue like hardware, software, or the cooling system."

We, at Carbon3IT Ltd use the following definition, kindly borrowed by Her Majesty's Government  Green Delivery Unit.

By Information and Communications Technology (ICT) we mean, the Equipment, systems, services, technologies and methods (voice, data, visual, digital) used for communicating, processing, managing, using, storing and destroying information.
By Green ICT we mean, the tools, techniques and approaches that reduce the material impact of ICT on the environment across its lifecycle, ranging from the resources and materials used in the manufacture/development of ICT, the conditions under which ICT is manufactured or developed, the delivery of ICT to customers and users, the energy consumed in using ICT, and, the disposal of ICT at the end of its life
 Ref: HMG GDU (Green Delivery Unit)
• and the following which is a Carbon3IT Ltd statement:
 However, ICT not only has the capacity to reduce its own energy use and carbon emissions but also across the entire supply chain in virtually all other commercial, public and educational activities.
"In this article the working definition takes into account the motivation (social, economic, environmental, etc.) of the different players involved in the energy saving process. At its essence, green IT is the environmental and resource saving effort of IT. The reason for using green IT may arise from economic or ecological interests. Actions can affect on the whole the lifecycle of information technology – meaning from the construction via utilization through to disposal."
Please see above!
 "It must be stated that green IT is a part of IT research, which is facing the same difficulties as any other research field. Each player (industry, researchers, universities) has different objectives, different tools and different aims. These issues lead to difficulties in a permanent and an efficient co-operation, moreover it is getting difficult to have an efficient exchange of results between the players. And even if all parties see the necessity of a specific research topic, a unified approach can be daunting."
  We think that the GDU definition is very clear, and not really open to interpretation and perhaps all public research tenders should make the distinction?
 "Here the focus is on contracted research as a temporary bridge between the world of science and economy. To be successful in this co-operation the participants have to take into account the different environment of each partner and each one has to understand the point of view of the other one."
Whilst is clearly true, is it not the same for other areas of academic research, that fundamental disconnect between may I say real life and academic life ?

"In the following table the different aspects of two partners of a contracted research agreement are shown with the knowledge that some points may be omitted since certain requirements might only occur in special co-operations (special contracts) or in contracts with specific partners (partners being protected by law or dealing with security issues of a country, for example)."
My old boss always used to say contracts are necessary only because one of the parties either cant fulfill the brief or does not have the skills to either implement the project successfully or did not fully cost the project, surely this means that research projects should have a distinctive and required outcome that is fully defined. ie. the proposed system should be able to monitor energy use, calculate its cost in both kilowatt hours and currency, and provide an automatic means to turn off equipment as necessary whilst providing users to be able to continue their work. 4 clear objectives, not a wooly ill-defined statement.
 Building a bridge between these partners might be the duty of a Technology Transfer Office (TTO). These offices are dedicated to identify common aspects in the field of research and industry. They might already bring these partners together, deal with contracts, observe the market to help in the development for exploitation for a better society. Only a few points might be outlined from this table but already in line B there is an interesting and even crucial point in the co-operation. Currently there is a lot of hype around green IT and companies are interested in marketing or selling "their green IT." But how green is this IT? Is there a green label existing?
A very good point, please refer to "energy star, epeat etc, there are many defined environmental criteria "badges" or "labels"

Green IT might start if this company uses water from a body of water to cool the server room, but is this hot water afterwards used for the heating or is it just poured back into the water source, changing the ecological circumstances of the aquatic life? The industry is aware of this hype and as their aim is to gain money, this is already the first difference compared to academic researchers being interested in long-term research and in the contribution to the welfare of the society.
I know of two companies that do in fact use water to cool their facilities and both have taken steps to ensure that the "hot" water that has been through their facilities is returned after cooling and mixing with cold water to reduce and negate the impact.

Line L gives another indication for a permanent difficulty in relationships of academia and industry: It is the different funding scheme in some calls and the difficulties for (some) companies in having access to some funding. The rules for open calls are changing regularly. Beside the ongoing business in companies and the current economic difficulties, it is not evident that companies do invest in departments dealing with open calls or that they might pay an external consultant for getting information for their participation in a co-operation in an open call.
 I agree insofar as funding calls rules do seem to change as frequently as the weather, but surely this is as a result of the academic/industry feedback loops, after all there is no point repeatly conducted in the same research if the answer is the same, i.e learn form your mistakes and having recently performed some work in this field I can assure the author that external consultants are in fact called upon to provide the necessary technical assistance.

There are critical issues in both columns to find, and it is not always the industry blocking the development for a greener society, but also researchers being too far from the real industrial life. There are also the funding organizations with their long procedures and rules for projects making in difficult to include popping up research in the quick changing world of green IT in on-going projects.

This, I have to agree with.

This table is hopefully a first step for a better understanding, giving new ideas for co-operations including these various objectives. The next step will be to model the relationships and the impact of various partners in a project or collaboration by investigating already existing successful co-operations as well as co-operations which failed and the reasons for both.

Excellent, researching the researchers, part of the feedback mechanism.

There needs to be steps toward a greener society, and green IT will surely play an important role. With close co-operation between academia and industry, the opportunities for meaningful change will be magnified. Information technology will make life easier, giving support in various way, but it has to be green IT to be sustainable for future generations.

Green IT is already the platform for a greener society, the internet of things and smart/intelligent cities are already examples of this movement. and we will get there. 

To Finish Someone at a conference back in 2010 said that his organisation did not have a defacto "green IT policy" as they believed that they would become greener by default, when questioned further on this he said that as far as they were concerned it was the job of the technology companies to ensure that their equipment was sustainable, energy efficient and green moving forwards and this is very true, but, and its a big but, it is not sufficient to expect someone else to do your job for you, you have to drive the process by demanding from the companies energy efficient, sustainable and green products, you have develop your own "Green IT policy/strategy, you have to manage your systems to use less energy, you have to define and scope your systems to monitor, measure and manage where you can identify further efficiency gains, you have to decide what equipment to buy that can be recycled, reused or dismantled, and this has a cost.
It is up to you whether to adopt the triple line accounting practices of people, plant and profit, where all of the above come into play and I can tell you one thing sooner or later you will be compelled to do it, either through consumer awareness or legislation, so it makes sense to get on the job now.

Alternatively, you can get someone else to do it, or pay the price with falling sales and high tax bills.....over to you!

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