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7 April 2007

Green computing

Speak about corporate blogs and the one by Sun Microsystems CEO & President Jonathan Schwartz is one of those that emerge at the top of the list.

Earlier,the Sun newsletter I get would have the Chairman & Co-Founder, Scott Mc Neally who would begin with an address as, “Dear Deepa” and then go on to speak about many interesting issues, products and trends. Even though I know it is a simple programme that generates it, it would tickle me pink to have the CEO of Sun mail me a newsletter addressed to me personally :)

I remember an interview last year in which, their executive spoke about how going green will mean going beyond environment-friendly packaging. I was intrigued as it went on to describe more about how Sun is working in these areas and how end –users could drive the way forward. For instance by purchasing products with a rating that indicates it’s energy efficiency.

On the topic of green computing it spoke of how according to Gartner Group, 80 percent of the world’s data centers are constrained by heat, space, and power requirements and sustainable computing can boost the bottom line while simultaneously doing a favor for the planet. It makes a powerful statement when it states that, “Green computing is not about going out and designing biodegradable packaging for products.”

It goes on to add how consumers can push suppliers to develop technologies in this direction. Just as we are all encouraged to use recycled paper products, companies should purchase appropriate products. And that many of the world’s data centers have reached their limit in terms of space whether it is building space or even space within a city. If people don’t start adopting these new designs, they will be forced to either limit their computing capability, thereby failing to satisfy their business needs, or they will start taking more than their share of the resources in their community. Of how when companies turn on their huge x86 computing grids, immediately generate such a power spike that the utility company calls to find out what happened.

When questioned about role of business, to consume less in terms of energy, hardware and power, without affecting the bottom line, it suggested that,” Just as when you buy a new washing machine or refrigerator these days, you probably pay attention to the EPA rating that is posted on the appliance. Energy efficiency is a goal. None of us are interested in buying products that consume the power their older versions did. When people acquire new computing equipment, they should take into consideration the products’ SwaP rating if they want to be environmentally responsible. SwaP stands for space, wattage, and performance and there is a simple equation to calculate an individual index, depending on the application. Computing equipment with the highest, most efficient SwaP ratings are the most environmentally responsible.

Their site has a section devoted to the topic and it has useful tools like an energy calculator etc.

I remembered this when The Economist carried an article in their Mar 1 issue on the damaging effects of computing on the environment. Titled, Computing goes Green? it said,

" The people, places and things inside Second Life, a thriving online world with millions of residents, may be imaginary-but the power consumption of the computers that maintain the illusion is all too real. Nicholas Carr, a business writer and blogger, recently worked out that each of the 15,000 or so residents logged in at any one time consumes electricity as a result of their activities in the virtual world almost as fast as the average inhabitant of Brazil does in real life. Second Life's residents, Mr Carr concluded, don't have bodies, but they do leave footprints."...

It was in their print version so I tried looking up the online version to link it here but got only the above as the full text is for paid subscribers only. In any case, there is a good amount of literature on the topic. Several firms from the industry such as Dell, HP, IBM and others have launched what is referred to as a "Green consortium" to reduce data center power consumption and three technologies in particular are predicted to help in future; the use of multi-core processor chips that have better "performance per watt" indicators; using more efficient power supplies; and more careful use of cooling systems or smart cooling systems to reduce cooling costs for data centers.

It is predicted that by 2010, energy costs will rival annual hardware spending.

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