There was an interesting article in The Guardian newspaper in the UK yesterday, which I would recommend to anyone who's concerned about the problems of data centre power.
Basically the article points out that the London financial centre is not getting the power supplies it needs for new data centres and points the finger at two main causes. Firstly, the Olympics in 2012 has priority and has brought all other development to a stop. Until the power requirements for the games are known the City has been told that there can be no more data centres. Secondly, there is a shortage of electrical engineers with the specialist skills to build the infrastructure for the games and the City.
Chris Crosby, VP of data centre company Digital Realty is quoted as saying that "There is the potential now for London to go technology-dry because of the lack of power. One issue is the shortage of power and the expense of it because of connection costs, another is the sheer length of time it takes to sort power out if you do find it somewhere. In London everything takes 8-12 months longer than anywhere else".
The situation is likely to get worse. The article cites estimates that the power demand of the City will rise by 80% in the next 5-7 years, with Docklands expected to rise by 90% over the same time. Companies are already moving out of London to other parts of the UK, or even overseas.
The article also makes reference to proposals from the London Mayor's office concerning CO2 emissions, which is seen as adding to the problem.
Three things. Firstly, it seems to me that there is great opportunity here for all the 'Green' data centre services that all the main IT services companies are promoting. Reducing power use is the main focus and this is certainly what is needed in London.
Secondly, the way that data centre growth is increasing means that with current solutions we're facing a losing battle. The last estimates I saw (from the US) was that data centre power was doubling every 5 years and the figures for the City are only marginally slower. Yet the reports of data centre gains tend to talk about one-off 15-30% power reductions. Clearly these sorts of solutions wont solve the problem in the long run (or even the medium term) - we need more and better answers (such as using the waste heat to warm buildings).
Thirdly, moving out of the cities is a temporary solution as carbon emissions come under closer legislative scrutiny in the coming years.
There's a long way to go yet, but plenty to do in the meantime.
Friday, 30 May 2008
There was an interesting article in The Guardian newspaper in the UK yesterday, which I would recommend to anyone who's concerned about the problems of data centre power.
Thursday, 29 May 2008
It's good to see coverage of Green issues outside the data centre and there have been two interesting items over the last week.
Firstly, IBM last week launched what it calls the Carbon Tradeoff Modeler which is designed to help organisations analyse and manage the impact of climate change on their supply chains.
The supply chain will be the most difficult part of an enterprise to manage, as and when carbon emissions come into the equation. Clearly there will be a range of trade-offs around transport costs, inventory costs and the carbon emissions from transportation, warehousing, etc. and it can only get more complex over time.
The model, developed by IBM Research and IBM Global Business Services, covers these various interactions and trade offs for both manufacturing and distribution. It also sounds like a good opportunity for IBM Global Business Services (the business consulting arm of IBM Global Services) to get involved as well.
Since then, Capgemini and the Global Commerce Initiative have released a study, entitled 'Future Supply Chain 2016' which goes into some detail about the future changes that will be needed in the supply chain. It points out that there will also be a need for better traceability and reduced traffic congestion and the requirements will only grow - supply chain strategies need to look ahead at future requirements. It also points out that all stakeholders in a supply chain will need to play their part.
The report identified seven key solutions areas that will represent challenges, including collaborative physical logistics (shared transport and warehousing), demand fluctuation management, identification and labelling and making the assets involved more energy efficient. The full report is available from the web site www.futuresupplychain.com.
The IBM offering is a first step in the right direction and I'm sure will attract a lot of interest. The Capgemini report shows just how significant and complex the issue is going to become.
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
For a report to be published in the next few days I have been looking at the environmental credentials of major software and IT services companies and making some comparisons. It's an interesting processes. Most companies have recognised the need to be Green but only six months ago there were a few who were still prepared to stand up and say that global warming was not relevant to them. In fact one major software company still does, or maybe it's just the web site, which reads "As a developer of computer software, XXXX does not produce harmful waste or by-products in the course of doing business".
When you make the comparisons it's clear that there are a few companies that have been environmentally conscious for a number of years and have been taking action over a long period. The gap will close rapidly, but in the short term these are clear Green market leaders.
In the chasing group are those companies that have been less pro-active but have seen the light, are galvanising their organisations and aligning themselves with opportunities.
The third group of companies represents various shades of Green. Generally only reactive to market pressures (often that's the strategy) they nevertheless are keen to point out their own internal Green credentials and are very sensitive to challenges. You sometimes get the impression that the policy is being passed down from on high and there is some scepticism lower down. It's this group that has tended to come up with some of the stranger 'Green' claims that I've encountered, including having large windows to allow use of natural light (now there's an idea!) and using native plants for landscaping (because they need less water and fewer pesticides). The most intriguing one was 'test of waterless urinals in men's toilets' - I'd love to know how that works.
Let me quickly say that I'm sure these are all highly commendable actions and may have particular relevance in local situations, but on a global scale (and these are global companies) they look like a distracting level of Greenglossing.
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
At the end of last week HP announced a range of actions to help customers reduce the environmental impact of printing. Among the announcements was a printing assessment service for enterprises, more sustainable manufacturing for the paper it sells and uses and a labeling system to indicate the environmental attributes of its products and services.
Some of this is part of the company's Eco Solutions programme, which includes the labelling system, a greater use of auto on/off technology, a Carbon Footprint Calculator for printers, a Laserjet Power Calculator and the ECO Printing Assessment, which helps assess various environmental aspects of printer and paper use.
The company also promised to improve the energy efficiency of its printers by 40% by 2011 (compared with 2005) and to increased the recycled materials in printers by three times by 2010 (relative to 2007).
There's more in the announcement, which you can read here. It's all good stuff and shows how pro-active you can be, but then for HP it's essential. The use of printers is becoming a focus for saving energy and paper. One often cited recommendation for reducing IT energy consumption is to cut the number of printers and have controlled access and usage, which is a sensitive suggestion for HP. The company's Imaging and Printing Group is the most profitable part of the operation - for the last financial year it accounted for 27% of revenue but half of profit.
Thursday, 22 May 2008
I was invited along to one of Fujitsu's Executive Discussion Evenings in London the other night. Fujitsu Services puts on these regular events for its IT clients and other interested parties and this one was around the role of government and business in driving the green agenda.
It had three very well-informed (and well-chosen) speakers; the head of the Climate Change Group in Defra (the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), the Senior Environmental Advisor at British Energy (which runs nuclear power stations in the UK) and the Head of Environment at the CBI (Confederation of British Industry). They didn't always agree with each other (not surprisingly) but the presentations and following discussions were very interesting.
I find discussions at this level a lot more worthwhile than some Green IT events, which ultimately end up with comparisons around how much money was saved by turning off PCs at night or consolidating data centres. It gives a more thorough understanding of the scale of the problem, the issues that are raised in trying to solve it and the inevitable impact on business. In one sense it can be a little depressing, because it becomes apparent that so much needs to be done. On the other hand it can be very inspiring, because so much needs to be done and a lot of it relies on the IT industry to get there.
The evening was well attended, as it should be. Its the sort of event that every CEO and IT Director should attend, whether they currently have any interest in Green IT or not.
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
Well, only two days ago I reported that Microsoft and The European Environment Agency (EEA) had joined forces to launch a European environmental information portal based on Microsoft's Virtual Earth. Now we hear that Google has joined up with the UK's Meteorological Office to look into the future and provide an online view of the impact of climate change over the next 100 years.
Based on Google Earth, it will overlay climate change forecasts from the Met Office and information on polar ice caps from the British Antarctic Survey to produce predictions of local and regional impact of a 'medium' greenhouse gas emissions scenario. Basically its an animated demonstrating of the impact of global temperature changes. A very good idea, since we need to educate and inform as much as possible.
It's particularly interesting because we often talk about the impact of climate change in terms of global temperature rises, but these hide significant local and regional differences and the impact they will have.
Clearly we will be seeing increasingly sophisticated and detailed representations of the impact of climate change in the years to come and it's obviously an area where IT will be essential. Undoubtedly such systems will become a reference point for, if not actually tied in to, risk management scenarios and potentially shorter term predictions will be plugged into manufacturing planning, supply chain management and logistics systems of large corporations.
Monday, 19 May 2008
In another example of the way that IT companies can help address global warming, IBM has announced a breakthrough in photovoltaics technology that could significantly cut the cost of generating electricity from the Sun.
Basically it's about focusing the Sun's power onto the cells, which can generate five times as much electricity as normal. If it can get from the lab to the solar farm it would use fewer cells and hence have a cost advantage. It all comes from using an IBM thermal cooling system developed for the microprocessor industry.
So there you are. Proof that, perhaps, IT can help save the world.
The European Environment Agency (EEA) and Microsoft have formed a five-year partnership to provide access to environmental information across Europe. The idea is to help policy makers and individuals make more informed choices based on environmental information.
The working name for the portal, which is based on Microsoft's Virtual Earth, is the Global Observatory for Environmental Change. It will host scientific data and also observations and other information uploaded by users. It's designed to bring together information on a range of areas, including water, soil, air, ozone indicators, etc. in much more geographic detail than has been available in the past. The idea is to give users the means to compare conditions in European locations and illustrate the effect that particular events have on localities.
This is one of those areas of Green IT that very few companies that I have come across even see as potential for business (the other being Logica). But climate change is happening now, measuring and monitoring the changes to help with policy and business decisions will be an essential part of how we cope with it and IT will be an essential part of that.
Friday, 16 May 2008
Cisco has unveiled more of its Telepresence videoconferencing system. The new offerings extend the system into individual offices and into large TelePresence rooms for broader training and conference meetings.
Videoconferencing is set to take off in the coming years as companies look for ways to reduce their carbon footprints. Business travel is an easy target and videoconferencing an obvious solution, some online versions are available at very low cost. The high end ones are very impressive and don't come cheap - the personal Telepresence 500 system comes in at $33,900, but then it doesn't take many international flights to pay that off.
Wednesday, 14 May 2008
On Tuesday Viviane Redding, the EU Commissioner for Information, Society and Media, started a debate on how ICT could make the world (or at least Europe) a Greener place. It makes interesting reading, so I quote at some length from the press release:
'As part of its effort to combat climate change, the European Commission today announced that it would promote the use of ICT to improve energy efficiency throughout the economy, starting with buildings, lighting and the power grid. ICT can enable, across the economy, greener behaviour, which would massively cut Europe's carbon footprint if widely deployed. The Commission will encourage the ICT industry to demonstrate leadership in reducing its own CO2 emissions and by identifying and creating solutions that will benefit the whole economy. For instance the most advanced computer servers consume the same amount of energy as a standard light bulb; if widely used they could offer potential energy savings of up to 70%'.
"To meet Europe's energy efficiency goals by 2020, we need a high growth, low carbon economy. Research and rapid take-up of innovative energy efficient ICT solutions will be crucial to lowering emissions across the whole economy", said Viviane Reding. "There is a win-win situation in which ICT will promote the competitiveness of EU industry while leading the fight against climate change"'.
In a section that echoes the views of The Green IT Report (and spelled out in the Briefing Paper - The Meaning of Green IT), the press release goes on to say that '(The EU) .. will encourage the ICT sector, which at present accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions, to lead by example the drive towards carbon neutrality. This will be done by reinforcing research, development and deployment of components and systems, complemented by voluntary agreements, for example on green procurement. The real gains from green ICT will come from developing energy efficient ICT solutions that impact the other 98% of global emissions'.
I don't think I can add much to that, except maybe to say that the focus on building, lighting and the power grid may be a bit narrow. What about travel (possibly excluded because air travel is not counted in EU carbon emissions), or transport/logistics, or systems to count, monitor, manage and trade carbon? I guess you have to start somewhere, though and these are pretty wide targets.
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
I'm getting increasingly curious about the reluctance of some software and IT services companies to address the Green issue head on. Whilst at the corporate end of the business shareholder pressure means that CSR reports are expanding and companies are making real efforts to be more environmentally friendly, there still seems to be some reluctance at the solutions and sales end. I can't help wondering whether there is still some embarrassment about declaring your environmental credentials for fear of being seen as a tree-hugging fanatic. Some would rather just talk about increasing efficiency, with additional Green benefits. Seems odd - they didn't mind shouting about how good they were at corporate governance when it came to SOX, or showing their finance capabilities when it came to MiFid.
I think there are two issues here. Firstly a disconnect between turning your own organisation green and selling green solutions to customers. I thought the 'do as we say, not as we do' attitude was long gone. To be fair, the problem is mostly that the two are often (unfortunately) in different parts of the company, but you would think that those who are creating and selling solutions to clients would be up to speed on what's going on in-house.
The second area is in pro-actively offering solutions. In my experience the first to market creates the buzz, shows knowledge and commitment and often creates a standard that others have to follow. So why the reluctance? One reason I've been given is that in a market without real standards it's better to wait - Y2K showed what mistakes could be made. I think others, including the major software house I talked to last week, are simply complacent and feel the market will come to them.
In my view this is a long-term market opportunity where real commitment and expertise will be a business winner. Some of the major players seem to be happy to sit and wait until customers ask for solutions, whilst their smaller and more fleet-footed competitors are out there showing customers what can be done now.
Monday, 12 May 2008
It was reported in the UK computing press at the end of last week that John Suffolk, the UK government CIO, had announced a strategy to reduce carbon emissions from public sector IT operations.
I can't find the source of these comments to verify what was actually said, but I guess this relates back to the process initially talked about at the end of last year. Indeed I mentioned in my blog back in February, after a meeting with the Cabinet Office (where the CIO sits) that the process was well under way. The idea was to come up with a short list of 10-12 actions for government IT usage and at the time the ten being considered (but not necessarily final) were:
- Turn off PCs overnight
- Target a percentage of products to be EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) Silver certified. (This is a self-certification by industry in the US). It's mandatory for 95% of US federal government purchases and the EU is considering a similar rule.
- Keep PCs for five years, not three, to account for the embedded energy in manufacture.
- Consider thin client alternatives
- Consider whole life-cycle issues in purchasing.
- Rationalise printing, e.g. from four people to a printer to 12 people.
- Track and audit printer usage by person/unit
- Consolidate and virtualise data centres
- Ask suppliers to actively manage the cooling/heating in data centres
- Ask suppliers to sign up to the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres
I don't know which ones of these are still being considered. Apparently (according to Silicon.com) the final strategy will be announced in a launch in eight weeks.
Well at least there is a strategy coming. Given the targets set out in the Climate Change Bill currently going through parliament (26%-32% reduction on 1990 carbon emissions by 2020) one can't help wondering whether this is enough. One problem is in the area of procurement. The OGC (Office of Government Computing) has a 'value for money' remit which would might rule out 'Greener' solutions. I have heard from one insider that in fact environmental considerations are being taken into consideration in purchases by the OGC, through a backdoor route, but it would be better to set an example and address the issue head on.
Wednesday, 7 May 2008
Well Green IT must be getting important if it appears on the Royal radar.
In a speech to the May Day Business Summit on Climate Change in London, The Prince of Wales pointed to the case of publishing house Reed, which has apparently reduced its PC power use by 80% by replacing 4,500 PCs and 400 lap tops with thin client terminals. An example of a low carbon strategy with a bottom-line benefit.
I'm not sure HRH knew what thin client is, particularly as he went on to say "The mind boggles! I have never heard of that one before". He is, though, a well known environmentalist and he does have a significant audience among business leaders in the UK as well as a Technology Group in The Prince's Trust, a charity group. The comment will not have gone unnoticed (particularly by the likes of Dell).
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
SAS, the business intelligence software company, has announced SAS for Sustainability Management, a decision-support software platform that proactively identifies strategies to address environmental, social, and economic situations while achieving corporate objectives.
From what I can tell, the idea is that the software reports on three areas of sustainability – environmental, social, and economic - and its predictive functionality allows users to test strategies, identify relationships and forecast scenarios.
Sounds good. This is the sort of application that many corporations or business units will need to use to help with strategy around sustainability. I bet there's quite a bit of detailed work around implementation, though, with lots of fine-tuning at the time of implementation to suite the nature of the business, industry sector and so on. No doubt metrics will change and improve, with the need to upgrade, re-tune, etc . Strikes me that a lot of support will be needed; good for someone.
Monday, 5 May 2008
IBM has announced some new energy measurement offerings, including software to measure power usage in the data centre, an online energy assessment benchmark and an expansion of the Energy Certificates program to 34 countries.
The first helps customers monitor and manage power usage, whilst the second is an on-line tool, produced by The Bathwick Group, that allows clients to measure and compare their efficiency score against other organisations worldwide.
I find the third of these most interesting, though. IBM, with Neuwing Energy in the US, has an Energy Efficiency Certificate program which enables clients to earn certificates for reducing the energy used to run their data centres. These certificates represent one way a businesses can attain a certified measurement of their reduction in energy use. Not only is this an emerging business metric, but the certificates can also be traded on the energy efficiency certificate market or kept to show reductions in energy use and associated CO2 emissions. The trading aspect has now been expanded beyond the US, Canada and Mexico to a total of 34 countries, including most of Europe, the Middle East, India, China, Australasia and Japan.
This is an IT company already directly involved in certifying energy savings, which will be built into legislation around the world in the not-too-distant future.
Friday, 2 May 2008
The CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) which collects climate change data from major corporations, has announced the results of its first Supply Chain Leadership Collaboration.
This is an attempt to extend the CDP's research down the supply chain. The companies that took part were Cadbury Schweppes, Dell, HP, Imperial Tobacco, L’Oréal, Nestlé, PepsiCo UK & Ireland, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, Tesco and Unilever.
It's not clear how many suppliers were contacted, but 144 responded. Given the size of the corporations that took part, these suppliers will themselves be mainly large companies. In fact the CDP also indicated that two thirds of these suppliers had already reported to the CDP's annual information gathering exercise. The CDP is doing a great job, but this sounds like it had limited success if there were less than 50 new responses.
The CDP says that 58% of responding suppliers report their greenhouse gas emissions. That does sound good. I've been doing some analysis of the annual CDP survey responses by IT services companies, based on the CDP5 survey (completed in 2007 - CDP6 is underway now). There is some interesting information, but I found the quantitative data on greenhouse gas emissions disappointing.
I'm looking at the top 30 SITS (Software and IT Services) players worldwide. Of the companies I have looked at so far almost 90% are categorised as having answered the CDP questionnaire. However, of those that answered only around 40% provided (and allowed to be published) comparable quantitative data, which makes comparisons between companies very limited.
I'm sure it will get better. For example at least two IT services companies that I've spoken to recently that did not respond at all to CDP5 have said they will respond to CDP6. There's really no excuse for not responding in full and providing the data requested. Not doing so could start to be damaging.
Thursday, 1 May 2008
Reuters has reported that despite economic slowdown impacting the bottom line, US industrial companies are continuing to spend on going green. The objective of these corporations, according to Reuters, is to win praise for being environmentally concerned and also stave off legislation (which sounds very like the target market for the Merrill Lynch Green & Gold services we reported on yesterday).
Of course the fact that oil prices are up 20% this year is also a factor. Energy prices were always going to be a driving force in the market, but the expectation was that legislation would force the issue with carbon taxes. As it turns out the market is doing it itself.
The Reuters article also notes that sales of green products are booming (up 20% in the first quarter).