Friday, December 12, 2008

Article: Green IT 101

Green IT 101: Technology Helps Businesses and Colleges Become Enviro-Friendly

By Alan Naditz


It’s All in the Wording

The exact definition of “Green IT” depends on where you look or who you talk to. Webopedia defines it as “the study and usage of computer resources in an efficient way.” Simon Mingay, a consultant with Stamford, CT-based information technology research firm Gartner Inc., has a more convoluted term: “Optimal use of information and communication technology for managing the environmental sustainability of enterprise operations and the supply chain, as well as that of its products, services, and resources throughout their life cycles.” Either way, the basic element is the same: Technology can be a key part of a company’s effort to promote sustainability within itself and to the public.


The most common—and easiest—way to begin the green tech process is to update the equipment, particularly computer systems.


Desktop power management—the second Green IT effort typically followed by businesses and colleges — ... .


Thin Is In—Again

The quest to save energy is even resurrecting an old idea: The use of “dumb terminals,” or thin clients, in place of fully functional PCs. These limited capability machines, designed for specific tasks and lacking their own true hard drives, consume about 10 percent of the power of the everyday computer, according to Framingham, MA-based technology research firm IDC. Dozens, even hundreds, can be networked to a server that hosts most of their applications—similar to the DOS days of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The Virtues of Videoconferencing

While thin client terminals are making a comeback, businesses are also giving a second glance to web- and videoconferencing, which can cut down employee travel times and company expenses.


Share and Share Alike

Increased server use leads to another Green IT strategy: virtualization, the pooling and sharing of technology resources, including servers, storage, and networking.

“Essentially, we’re talking about the division of one physical server into multiple isolated environments,” says Frances Guida, virtualization program manager at Hewlett Packard in Cupertino, CA. “Each virtual environment has the ability to host a complete operating system. This allows companies to minimize new hardware purchases by hosting several virtual servers on one virtual server.”


Keeping Their Cool

Ironically, companies that use virtualization are relying on other Green IT actions to make the products even more cost- and energy-effective.


Waste Not, Want ...

Age-old bad habits: waste. Recycling programs have been in the works for years at the corporate and college levels. It was only a matter of time before the green tech side became involved.


Breaking the Habit

But new, energy-efficient equipment is only as effective as the user’s computing habits. That’s what led to cities like Boston installing energy-controlling software. A typical PC consumes 588 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, two-thirds of which is wasted when the computer is not in use, according to Seattle-based Verdiem, developer of the Surveyor-brand energy consumption control software ... . The company also notes that 60 percent of network PCs are left running after hours in businesses, and 80 percent of end-users disable their computers’ power conservation settings after 60 days because they’re considered inconvenient.


How Green Is My Technology? Pretty Green, According to ACUTA Survey

Two-thirds of colleges and universities have gone or are going green by taking energy-saving and environmentally conscious steps, according to a nationwide survey of 780 community colleges, and public and private four-year institutions by Lexington, KY-based Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA). Among the schools’ pro-environment steps:

  • Eighty percent of green schools recycled computer and networking equipment instead of sending it to a landfill
  • Seventy-three percent bought more energy-efficient equipment
  • Sixty-three percent implemented a policy of reducing how much they print
  • Fifty-five percent “power off” whatever equipment they can
  • Twenty-nine percent have revamped their data centers and 20 percent have simplified their networks, both with energy savings in mind
  • Twenty-seven percent say alternative sources are providing some of the electrical power on campus
  • Twenty-five percent of schools say that at least some telecommuting is performed by faculty or staff
  • Also, to reduce the need for student travel, 22 percent of schools have implemented or expanded their distance learning programs, while 18 percent have implemented or expanded online education opportunities

Sustainabilty: The Journal of Record / V. 1 NO. 5 / October 2008 / 315-318 / DOI: 10.1089/SUS.2008.9931

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