The amount of CO2 emissions produced in the production of electricity used to power and cool today’s computing platforms accounts for 2 percent of the global emissions! Wow, that is an amazing number. I acknowledge that this statistic represents the consumption of electricity that is produced through fossil fuel generation technologies as that production actually yields the CO2 emissions. However, given today’s generation capabilities, IT’s emissions are close to the total CO2 emissions produced by the transportation industry.
Let’s look at this from another perspective, the cost of electricity to the consumer. Recently, the Gartner Group estimated that “large organizations spend between 4 and 10 percent of their total IT budgets on energy costs”. Depending on the organization, that is significant budget…the remaining portion of that statement is astounding “that number may quadruple by 2012”.
Clearly, the amount of energy consumed to provide the information technology support of business is rapidly becoming a true business issue on two fronts, the environment and budget. For Healthcare, this issue has both a physical and monetary dimension. Physically, pollution and the green house effect impacts the health of a growing percentage of our population. Monetarily, this issue impacts the cost of healthcare as sickness usually results in a claim paid, and budget increases are directly proportional to premium amounts.
Electricity is measured based on a factor of Watts consumed over a time period. Most households are familiar with the term Kilowatts per hour, as the electric utility bill is based on this measurement. I offer that “watt-sizing” is a term that represents the ability to vary the electrical consumption utilized for the value it produces. For example, changing a light bulb from 100 watts to 60 watts, when a 60 watt bulb provides adequate light, is a form of “watt-sizing”.
In a recent Green IT conference sponsored by EDS, I learned that hardware vendors such as Sun Microsystems, Cisco, EMC and others are taking on the challenge to provide lower energy costs with higher capacities. Software vendors such as VMware have come up with creative ways to manage multiple applications on the same platform. This technology allows more energy efficient computing to be leveraged at greater applications capacities. These innovations are fantastic from the enabling technology standpoint as they provide more compute capacity at less energy consumption. Most of these innovations are based on the RISC and INTEL chip set and because their physical makeup can run using more efficient fan cooling.
While this is certainly a step in the right direction these technology improvements cannot be realized by the business unless applications currently running on higher energy consuming platforms are architected to be “watt-sized”. Further, the data currently leveraged by these high-energy applications must be converted to a format that can be understood by the new platform. Both are significant challenges, but ones that can certainly be overcome.
There are many paths to allowing applications to take advantage of “cleaner” compute. The journey down each path depends on the starting point. For example, if the starting point is a business application running on mainframe technologies, mainframe emulation technologies exist today that allow you to lift and shift to alternate platforms. If the starting point is a UNIX application, then the possibly exists to run Linux on INTEL. If the starting point is a Windows-based application running on a stand-alone platform, then the possibility exists to run that same application on a shared platform. As far as data is concerned, again, the starting point and the final destination are needed to determine the path. Each path is possible, and there will be bumps in each path and obstacles to overcome, but certainly each path can lead to Greener IT.
This begs the question, is “watt-sizing” a one time event? If I make an investment in moving to Greener IT today using one of the paths above, will I be sheltered from future technology change? We acknowledge that each path is a step in the right direction, but who knows what the future will bring?
One possible investment that could stand the test of time is moving the business logic to a Model Driven Architecture (MDA) approach. As specified by the Object Management Group, the business specifications are defined in the Platform Independent Model (PIM) for the application. The specifications are then transformed into the enabling technology using the Platform Specific Model (PSM). Tool vendors provide the transformation logic to move from PIM to PSM and, as technology advances, can help bridge the transformation gap. OMG’s standards allow for the movement of the specifications from one vendor’s tool offering to another vendor’s tool offering, thereby shielding the investment to a specific vendor’s offering. The corporations making this shift to MDA have built in a path to leveraging advanced technologies.
Green IT focuses on “environmentally conscious” computing. Corporations now understand that leveraging information technology to support the business initiatives has varying degrees of environmental and economical impacts. In order to lessen these impacts, we must all determine how to leverage the enabling technologies more efficiently. We must make sure that our applications have a clear path to “watt-sizing”.