Putting Green IT to Work in Sustainable Business Practices

Putting Green IT to Work in Sustainable Business Practices

[Editor's note: This is an excerpt from a new book, Green IT for Sustainable Business Practice, by Mark O’Neill; the excerpt originally appeared on BusinessGreen, and is reprinted with permission.]

An appropriate mantra for any organization committed to green IT should be "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." Organisations should use the green IT program as an ideal opportunity to reduce the amount of legacy IT equipment that is currently installed on their infrastructure.

Replacement of older PCs with energy efficient (Gold EPEAT rating) PCs should be considered, and if this is not financially or logistically viable at least replace any old CRT terminals that are still in use with far more efficient LCD models.

In recent tests, the average energy usage of a traditional 20-inch CRT VGA monitor was sixty three percent higher than a 20-inch wide-screen LCD monitor. Another option for organizations may be to upgrade from a cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) to a light-emitting diode (LED).

Another consideration for organizations is to reduce the number of PCs that exist on their infrastructure by ensuring they only provide one PC per user. In fact, many organizations are implementing PC sharing schemes to reduce the PC estate to less than one PC per user. This initiative is becoming more viable and accepted especially as modern workforces nowadays tend to be more fluid than static and job-sharing schemes become more popular.

Away from the workplace, users are already used to sharing PCs, for example when visiting libraries and internet cafes. It is essential of course that security issues are identified and addressed. Whenever an individual uses a computer, its cookies, browser history and other settings save the information that has been accessed. It is therefore essential that all the files and settings are deleted once the user logs off, and before the next user accesses the machine. To ensure the user's data and files are kept safe a robust password and data access process needs to be implemented.

There are many different ways in which an organization can reuse unwanted, retired or legacy infrastructure. A best practice Asset and Configuration Management process will assist an organization in identifying where assets can be re-assigned and reused. A popular practice is the passing on of unwanted infrastructure to schools or charitable organizations. This is an initiative that organizations may wish to manage themselves or carry out using a specialist third party, for example Computer Aid.

In addition to reusing infrastructure, organizations should also consider recycling the remaining infrastructure that cannot be reused. To enable more effective and efficient recycling, organizations should only source electrical products that are designed so they can be easily disassembled to component level, using universally available tools. The ultimate aim for any organization is to ensure no electronic or electrical waste is disposed of in a landfill site.

1) Virtualization to Support green IT

At its simplest level, virtualization allows you to have two or more computers, running two or more completely different environments, on one piece of hardware. For example, with virtualization you can have two different Operating Systems on one system; alternatively, you could host a MS Windows XP desktop and a MS Windows Vista desktop on one workstation. Virtualization essentially decouples users and applications from the specific hardware characteristics of the systems they use.

2) Data Center Management and Improvement

IT data centers are potentially the largest contributor to an organization's carbon footprint and must become more efficient if organizations are going to reduce their overall environmental impact.

Further research has indicated that electricity consumed in data centers, including enterprise servers, ICT equipment, cooling equipment and power equipment, is expected to contribute substantially to the electricity consumed in commercial sector in the near future. Western European electricity consumption of data centers has been estimated at 56 TWh/year in 2007 and is projected to increase to 104 TWh/year by 2020.

The projected energy consumption rise poses a problem for European Union energy and environmental policies. It is important that the energy efficiency of data centers is maximized to ensure that the carbon emissions and other impacts, such as the strain on infrastructure associated with increases in energy consumption, are mitigated.

3) Cloud Computing and Software as a Service (SaaS)

For many organizations wishing to improve the efficiency of their data centers and its associated green credentials, there are three main and distinct options.

The first is to design and build a brand new state-of-the-art data center, incorporating the latest in data center efficiency design and environmental standards.

The second is to improve, where possible, the existing data center and consider implementing fairly low risk and low cost initiatives such as using energy meters to break down energy usage to the level of components such as server, switch, storage area networks (SANs) and uninterrupted power supplies (UPS).

Organizations will then have the option of using the data to perform component level improvements. Other options include using CPU throttling on servers, to measure the range of power consumed under a variety of loads, and again use the data to improve capacity performance; and finally thermal profiling to identify hot spots and overcooling.

The third option, which many organizations are now considering adopting, is to outsource the data center to a specialist third party supplier. With this option comes the opportunity for organizations to completely re-think their entire IT strategy and consider alternative ways of working, including Software as a Service (SaaS) and Cloud Computing.

SaaS is a model of software deployment whereby a provider licenses an application to customers for use as a service on demand. SaaS vendors host the application on their own web servers and download the application to the consumer device. Increased high-speed bandwidth makes it practical to locate infrastructure at other sites and still receive the same levels or improved levels of service.

Conceptually, Cloud Computing is difficult to define and can be interpreted in many different ways; it doesn't seem to have a standardized definition. However there is some consistent terminology used when describing Cloud Computing -- words such as "distributed," "scalability" and of course "virtualization."

In its simplest form Cloud Computing is distributed or utility computing over the internet. This basically means that an organization's computing services can be hosted by specialist third party suppliers rather than using "in-house" local data centers.

From the organization's perspective, this means that there is no longer a requirement for organizations to own or manage their own infrastructure, since it is bought as a service and the maintenance of the infrastructure becomes the responsibility of the Service Provider.

4) Remote and Location-Independent Working

There are now many different technologies available for organizations who wish to provide the option to their employees of working from home or from satellite locations. These IT remote access solutions include, but are not restricted to, webcams, instant messaging, voice-conferencing and internet video calling solutions such as Skype.

The green benefits for organizations include reduced travel leading to fewer vehicles on the road and therefore reduced carbon emissions, and a reduction in the number of corporate buildings needed, leading to reduced energy requirements, due to less heating and lighting. Another advantage that may not be immediately identifiable is that by providing remote working solutions, staff based at home on a permanent basis can be excluded from needing seats at any recovery arrangements organised with the IT Service Continuity process. This could lead to reduced recovery requirements which could have a positive effect on CO2 emissions.

However careful consideration needs to be given before making a decision to embark on this very different method of working. Organizations will have to seriously consider the health and safety elements of remote working and the social impact of employees working in isolation from their colleagues. Lastly, organizations are going to have to implement the initiative with extreme care and diligence to ensure that they are not simply transferring the organization's carbon footprint to the individuals working remotely.