Green IT Takes Us Back to the Future

A fascinating interview at Greener Computing makes the interesting point that when it comes to "greening" your IT, many of the basic concepts are throwbacks to the days of centralized mainframes, when all the computing power was concentrated in one place that was easy to control.

Earth and WindmillsIBM’s green guru, John Lamb, has written a book, The Greening of IT,
which looks like a must-read for anyone orienting their career toward this area of IT. He has a lot to say. (You can also hear the interview podcast here).

Lamb’s first big thought:

The thing that jumps out right away, and this happens within IBM, too, is that before you can start off on energy efficiency, you have to baseline it. What are we using right now?
You can’t measure it because there’s one electric meter for the whole building, and in some cases for customers, too, the data center is only a small part of it, maybe 5 percent of the square feet. So it’s very difficult to measure the power that’s used. So the old mantra is ‘you can’t manage it if you can’t measure it,’ so that’s one of the things that continues to be surprising because customers, they don’t really know how much energy is being used.

Lamb also advocates forcing the Green IT issue by charging back departments based on how much energy they consume. Nothing will focus attention faster than a hard look at the profit/loss statement.

And here’s his hint at where the jobs will be in the not-so-distant future:

Most of the low-hanging fruit in green IT are basic things like reducing the number of data centers, reducing the number of servers, and that’s the basic technology. We just consolidate and don’t have so much extra resources. But a lot of it is also a sort of ‘back to the future,’ because it used to be that in the mainframe days everything was concentrated in the data center, and then we spread out the technology all over the place and each department had their own servers. A lot of the consolidation and basic practices are just now coming back; one re-emerging trend that’s coming back is water-cooled systems, which a lot of the data center people still hate, but it’s so much more efficient.

–Don Willmott

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