Monday, November 08, 2010

Green IT to Lower Power Bills

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where William Ehmcke, CEO, Connection Research is talking on Where are the Mega-trends for Software developers?, in the ACS Education Across the Nation series (later in Sydney, Hobart, Adelaide, Bunbury, Darwin):

  • Sustainability and impacts of the climate change debate;
  • The move from CapEx to Opex as a funding model;
  • The uber-Connected world; and
  • Transition into infotainment of ‘everything’
William is arguing that the information and communications industry (ICT) will have a large role in managing energy use and green house gas emissions. One driver for this will be increases in electricity prices, enough to bring them to the attention of householders and CEOs in business. Putting computers on standby will not be enough. Providing video conferencing is not enough: this must be built into business processes.

The ACS sponsored carbon audit by Connection Research "Carbon and Computers in Australia" found 2.7% of Australian carbon emissions were caused by IT. But William cited the "SMART 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age" (The Climate Group, June 2008) which suggested that ICT could be used to save five times as much energy as it uses.

There are obvious areas for saving energy used by ICT, such as data centres. William mentioned that the common PUE for data centres is 2.5, indicating that less than half of the energy going into a data centre reaches the computers. The energy is lost in power conditioning and cooling. He also mentioned the work on NABERS Data Centre standard.Link
One area for improvement William mentioned was efficiency of processing. Also, in theory, it is possible to shut down parts of systems to save energy. In addition the data is expanding rapidly. I note that Google released mod_pagespeed last week. This is an add-on for the popular Apache web server last week, which is claimed to speed up web sites by 50%.

William envisions a future using private, community and public clouds. Many corporate applications cannot be run on public equipment, but can use the same technology. The issue then is the interface between the public and private clouds.

One point is disagree with is that William argues that unstructured data is growing at more than 60% a year. He argues that web based information is "unstructured" and used Senator Lundy's work on Government 2.0 as an example of initiatives which will increase the amount of unstructured data. However, I believe that this should be treated as semi-structured. Many data structuring techniques can be applied to this to make it more efficient.

William argued that new multiprocessor sophistication will be needed.

I asked which would be the the top trend for Canberra. William nominated two:
  1. Consolidation of government data centres into a government cloud.
  2. Government 2.0, including social networking type features built into some government services.
To these I would add mobile computing. Low cost smart phones and tablets will be flooding the market for Christmas. This will fit well with the cloud and social networking. New government applications could be written on the assumption that the interface device will be a mobile one, with some support added for legacy desktop computers. This will allow for much more efficient applications to be designed.

The cloud model I prefer is a specialised one where an organisation outsources a function supported by software. As an example, ACS and ANU use specialist companies to provide their Learning Management Systems. These companies can then optimise their servers to run just one set of applications for a large number of clients. In a way this is not new, with companies sending their payroll processing out to computer bureaus decades ago.

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