I believe green IT shouldn’t merely focus on lowering energy consumption as the single principle that ticks the ‘environment saved’ box. Green IT is about more than that. Any reduction in IT resources that has no effect on the ability of the IT system to perform the functions for which it is designed should be seen as part of a sustainable IT solution.
The cloud is seen to offer organisations greater efficiency and agility in the delivery of their IT service, based largely on the principles of ‘economy of scale’. Organisations only pay for what they need, scaling up or down as their requirements change.
This is an efficient way of working and reduces the hardware required, particularly when combined with the growing phenomenon of BYOD (bring your own device), which sees many employees using their own devices for work use.
The increasing adoption of mobile technologies is allowing employees to connect with their work systems, colleagues and critical applications from home, thereby offering the potential to significantly reduce the emissions associated with commuting.
Any organisation opting for the cloud on the basis of its environmental credentials has to be careful that the service provider chosen shares the same commitment to green IT. Cloud services rely on huge data centres, which in 2011, already accounted for almost 1.5% of global electricity consumption, with some estimates expecting this to quadruple in the next ten years.
Virtualisation enables multiple ‘virtual’ servers to be run on a single physical server, using its capacity far more efficiently, which reduces the number of physical servers and the associated energy usage. It also ensures the servers occupy a smaller and potentially more energy efficient space.
The recent introduction of the HP ProLiant Gen8 servers, with their enhanced energy efficiency is a big step forward in reducing emissions from IT infrastructure. This new generation of servers delivers all the necessary functionality, but comes with a vast array of internal heat sensors that alter the output of internal fans to minimise power usage.
Many data centres are running unnecessarily cool, keeping server inlet temperatures around 18oC, when modern server design and airflow architecture means the temperature range could easily be nudged up to around 25oC. With monitored airflow analysis and the latest generation of intelligent servers, a rise in temperature of this order can deliver significant energy savings, with the servers and the cooling system drawing less power.
Modern power management software allows IT administrators to track power usage and cut consumption with hard-wired policies that enforce energy saving measures, with some even allowing working PCs to cut their consumption. This can be applied across all hardware with a single installation and users will not detect any change in their working environment.
The cloud has a part to play, but the switch to new infrastructure and a new approach that delivers greater efficiency, including virtualisation, can just as easily be done on-premise. This means the most significant energy reduction solutions are available to almost all organisations without them having to evaluate the suitability of cloud services, whilst trying to introduce new measures to reduce their energy usage.