IBM has made several announcements around software designed to help companies become greener. These include:
- New Content Collection and Archiving software that helps reduce storage and retrieval costs whilst also helping manage e-mails and integrate into a common Enterprise Content Management infrastructure
- The next release of Lotus Notes 8.5 and Domino software, due in Q1 2009, includes Domino Attachment Object Service, which ensures that only one copy of the file attachment is kept on each mail server, reducing storage requirements and associated costs. The company has estimated savings of 35% of storage space for the average business.
- Also available is an updated SmartSOA Sandbox which provides information about how IBM SOA middleware can help with energy management enabled by SOA.
- IBM has combined existing Tivoli software, including Tivoli Monitoring for Energy Management, to give companies the capability to monitor and charge back energy costs within their organisations. Data can be collected and analysed by individual application, service, machine or department. There's a dashboard to help identify top users and use trends.
- There are new products and capabilities to help companies use IT assets to reduce energy consumption. Rational Test Lab Manager configures, builds and manages the use of physical and virtual machines to help conserve energy. New analytics and reporting capabilities in Telelogic System Architect (available through a free download) help organisations with energy impact analysis, e.g. analysis and virtualisation of current and future power consumption by location, application, processes, strategies and staff.
- Combining software from IBM and C-Lock Technology, Enterprise Information Management (EIM) has released a new beta version of a greenhouse gas meter which helps organisations in multiple industries measure, verify and report Greenhouse Gas emissions.
- A new Energy and Environment Self-Assessment Tool is coming (at no cost), which analyses the current status of an organisation and recommends steps that can be taken to address issues such as compliance requirements, improving energy efficiency, etc.
- IBM has also created a new technical validation team to help Business Partners and IT professionals create solutions to reduce energy use and lower the impact of IT on the environment.
What's interesting here is that the offerings and initiatives fall into two areas. Firstly various tools to help measure and monitor energy use and emissions in organisations. Secondly, specific changes to products to help them run more efficiently, in terms of energy use.
This second aspect is one that we don't hear of much but is going to become increasingly important when addressing IT department carbon emissions. A lot can be done in the data centre to reduce energy requirements, but there is also a lot that can be done in the software coding to reduce the demand in the first place. Much will depend on the cost/benefit of re-writing code, but the growth of multi-core processors is starting to add weight to the argument. Multi-core is much more power efficient, but legacy systems can't take advantage of the technology without significant re-working.
Thursday, 30 October 2008
IBM has made several announcements around software designed to help companies become greener. These include:
Tuesday, 28 October 2008
Capgemini recently put out a Green IT Report, subtitled 'The Computer Equipment Lifecycle Survey', which is primarily a view on the green credentials of the company's main technology partners, looking at product lifecycle from manufacture through to disposal. The company asked Cisco, EMC, Dell, Google, HP, IBM and Sun Microsystems to participate and of these Cisco declined, EMC, HP, IBM and Sun responded in full to the survey (Google was assessed on the basis of a service provider to Capgemini) but no response was received in time from Dell.
The companies were asked a number of questions in five areas; manufacturing, transport and logistics, ownership and operation, disposal and corporate social responsibility. The responses were scored co-operatively by Capgemini and the partner organisation. To cut a long story short, of the maximum score of 1,500, HP came out on top with 1,337, followed by Sun (1,258), IBM (1,214) and EMC (1,179). You can read the details here.
As well as the evaluations, the report also had a list of Ten Steps to Green IT, which was quite interesting. Much of it is those common sense aspects that have appeared in many such lists, e.g. have an active CSR function, benchmark your carbon footprint, assess data centre PUE, etc. Pretty basic stuff. It gets more interesting at the last three points, though, which I think are more astute:
8. 'Understand that more IT does not mean less green'. It makes the point that IT can (and should) help reduce carbon emissions in the rest of the organisation, rather than the knee-jerk reaction in some companies of just cutting the emissions caused by IT itself.
9. 'Take a position on new technology'. Easier to said than done, but you have to start somewhere. Saas, cloud computing, thin-client, SOA can all have an effect on the environmental impact of IT operations and companies should at least consider their potential use.
10. 'Consider enlisting help'. Capgemini includes a list of types of organisations that can help, including benchmarking organisations, government bodies, industry bodies, consultants, etc. What's refreshing is that Capgemini doesn't itself claim to be the source of all answers, unlike some of its rivals, and something you will have heard me complain about before. Ten out of ten for that.
The EU has put out a policy summary of what's going on in Europe around the Greening of logistics. It describes the the policy milestones, including the Freight Transport Logistics Action Plan introduced last year, and the issues around optimising various modes of transport. You can read it here.
There's some interesting (and controversial) stuff in there, but one part that caught my eye is the fact that the Logistics Action Plan requires the EU to develop a road map for the implementation of the 'e-freight concept'. This is to allow freight to be traced electronically for a journey that could include various modes of transport, potentially making it safer, more reliable, more efficient and quicker, whilst also simplifying regulatory procedures.
The paper points out that the widespread deployment of ICT in freight logistics is being hindered by a lack of standardisation between countries and transport modes. The hope is that as technologies develop, particularly RFID and the use of the European Galileo satellite positioning system, e-freight will become more affordable and take off in a big way.
This is certainly a prime area of focus for Green IT in the future. Even in the short term, cost issues are going to mean the introduction of any systems that can make logistics solutions more efficient, but in the longer-term we're looking at broader and more flexible ICT solutions for more dynamic logistics operations, particularly in Europe. Suppliers need to be studying policy and legislation closely to stay ahead of the game.
Friday, 24 October 2008
The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship and Reputation Institute have produced a ranking of the top 50 companies in the US according to their CSR reputations. The rankings are based on a survey of the general public looking at perceptions of how a company behaves towards its employees, other companies it works with or competes with, and the local and global community. The US top 150 companies were included (plus some others with a known CSR reputation) and the survey was conducted before the recent economic turmoil.
Because the general public provides the data, consumer organisations tended to do well, with fewer pure business-to-business companies in the top 50. However, the computer industry did stand out in the rankings. The highest placed company overall was Google. Other IT companies in the top 50 included Micrsoft in 10th place, Intel (11th), Apple (16th), Adobe (21st), IBM (30th), HP (38th), Cisco (41st), Sun (43rd) and Dell 49th.
It's heartening to see IT doing so well. It reflects the fact that the industry knows that it will be an essential part of sustainable business in the future, particularly around climate change, and most companies have accepted that you can't help clients behave better until you have your own house in order.
My one reservation is that IT companies don't have all the answers. Some seem to think that success in one area means they are the experts in all things CSR/Green related. 'Holistic' is the watchword and IT companies often need to partner with the experts to get it right.
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
There was an article in the Financial Times last week that pointed out how IT can help reduce transport fleet emissions. (It began with the comment “ ..(IT) managers can do far more than just cut their own emissions – they are excellently placed to help increase the environmentally friendly credentials of the whole organisation”. I’ve been making that point since this blog began, but since it’s in the Financial Times it must now be true!)
Anyway, the article (which is here) pointed out that the easiest way to make transport fleet improvements is through using things like satnav and mobile phones. Integrating them with IT systems, i.e. using tracking and telematics with office-based scheduling and reporting systems, is easier and cheaper than playing around with the fleet itself.
The only possible down side, as the article points out, is that individuals feel their own activities are being monitored. People, need to be reassured in advance about the benefits, both to the individual and the company.
I very much agree that this is the way things will go. These are the sorts of quick and relatively easy solutions that we will see much more of, particularly if there is a clear short-term ROI to projects and solutions. It may not be sold as Green, but that’s what it is.
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
Another couple of stories on innovative ways to power ICT infrastructure:
- Morgan Stanley, with Atlantis Resource Corp, is planning to build a data centre in Scotland that will be powered by tidal energy. Located in the Pentland Firth in Scotland it will use the tidal power in the Firth. The project is estimated to cost £250-£300m and would be operational by 2011. The idea is that the data centre will use power from the grid until the turbines are up and running and they will then be directly connected to the data centre by a private cable. Apparently this will bypass the wait to get renewable energy projects connected to the grid. (Although if this is already a two-stage operation with the data centre preceding the turbine installation you would have thought there would have been plenty of notice to organise a grid connection).
- You may have seen the pictures of Ericsson's award-winning Tower Tube design for base stations. The idea is that the chimney effect creates cooling which reduces energy use by 40% and hence operating costs. Well now they've gone one further by adding a vertical turbine to generate power. It's still in the trial stage, but it's a difficult thing to hide (see picture). Ericsson describes the Tower design as an "aesthetically pleasing concrete tower", which initially sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it can apparently be "built in many sizes and painted in a variety of colours, making it a natural fit in any landscape". Make up your own mind.
Friday, 17 October 2008
I met up with EDS yesterday to talk about their strategy around environmental issues, both the greening of their internal activities and their customer offerings. It was an interesting discussion and the company does seem to be addressing the issues much more than seemed to be the case previously. The acquisition by HP doesn't seem to have had any direct impact as yet.
I've been a bit scathing about ED's environmental efforts in the past but I think a lot of that was due to the lack of good information/PR coming out of the company and what there was came from the US and sounded odd to European ears. Now there is some responsibility in the regions and the message is getting across much better.
The company does have a CO2e reductions target, although it wasn't set out in the recent CDP response. The aim is to reduce emissions by 25% on 2006 levels by 2010 and, with the help of the Rocky Mountain Institute, the company has identified a 35% achievable reduction in the longer term. A lot of this will be met through addressing energy use in facilities, particularly data centres.
The main thrust on the client side is really to expand on those things that EDS already does well, which falls into four areas; hosting, applications, desktop and consulting. The company's approach is simply to be able to talk knowledgeable to clients about the various aspects of these services that can make their businesses more efficient and hence greener. It's putting a Green value-add on existing services, helped by greater consulting capability and possibly partnering with some specific sustainability expertise.
There is one interesting diagram the company uses to demonstrate the power wastage in creating an IT business transaction. It is the various steps along the way that EDS, and indeed all IT services companies, are addressing:
The newly created Department of Energy and Climate Change has come out fighting with a pledge to cut UK carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 (based on 1990) levels, which is an increase on the previous 60% target. (The old target also had an interim aim of 26%-32% reduction by 2020, but I've seen no reference to this in the new pronouncements).
The 80% figure is a more realistic requirement to prevent dramatic climate change and the UK is now leading the world in terms of national targets and forthcoming legislation.
Whilst I commend the move, I am also concerned that the government is doing a lot of talking about the issue, but with very little action. Everything seems to be waiting on the Climate Change Bill, currently going through Parliament.
The public sector needs to be setting a clear and visible example by pro-actively reducing its emissions, which is certainly not the case now. I made the point in a previous blog back in June - it took the government more than nine months to come up with a fairly simplistic set of guidelines to reduce its IT emissions.
And legislation needs to be 'joined up'. The recent closure of post offices around the country put a lot of fossil fuel-burning cars on the roads and also undermines calls for personal carbon allowances - if government policy can have such an impact then personal actions become pointless.
In the latest McKinsey quarterly there is an interesting paper which sets out to evaluate the net impact of IT on carbon emissions, i.e. what it generates compared to what it can save. It's worth reading to appreciate the level of detail the study went into.
Anyway, there are no startling revelations on the generating side. The article comes up with the generally accepted figure of 2% of all emissions currently coming from the use of IT (although this study also included the energy used in manufacture in that figure). It also predicts that by 2020 worldwide ICT emissions will have increased to 3% of the global total, given the continued proliferation of IT equipment across the world and despite efforts to reduce their energy use.
But the interesting part is that McKinsey also estimated the contribution that IT could make in reducing emissions in four sectors—buildings, power, transport and manufacturing - as well as in horizontal replacement activities such as telecommuting and 'dematerialising' physical processes.
The good news is that information and communications technologies were found to have the potential to reduce far more emissions than they generate. The study identified annual reductions of 7.8 metric gigatons of carbon emissions by 2020 due to IT, compared with just 1.5 metric gigatons that IT will create. This is only a limited view of what can be achieve, so the possibilities are clearly much higher.
To quote the study " ...... companies that make everything from control devices to computer components, software to networking gear, will have a big incentive to invest in energy-saving products and services and thus help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing demand for information and communications technologies that promote abatement will create attractive growth opportunities for those companies".
I told you so!
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
An interesting press release from the Met Office, the UK's weather bureau, yesterday announced an agreement under which it will provide weather and climate change information to HSBC's fund managers. The Met Office "will provide high-level independent advice to enable fund managers ... to reduce the risks from both natural and man-made climate change on their investments".
It's interesting because it's a clear example of how climate change will become a part of corporate decision-making. If it affects investments then it impacts businesses and corporations will want to know how and when. It won't just be long-term, either. Data on weather (and its impact) will become increasingly important in formulating a supply chain strategy and short-term logistics decisions, for example. It will increasingly become a part of the information services that corporations receive and feed into everyday decision-making.
This is one of the areas that often gets ignored in discussions around Green IT, but just monitoring what's happening and accessing the data will become increasingly important and software and solutions providers need to take note.
Monday, 13 October 2008
In various reports and papers I've written about Green IT I've talked about the stakeholders that are driving companies to become more environmentally friendly (until legislation becomes more of a focus - see previous post). Those stakeholders include customers, investors and employees, but the last of these tends to be ignored. So it's good to see some research from Fujitsu Siemens which makes the point.
The company carried out a survey (of more than a thousand people in September 2008) that revealed that 51% of respondents had regularly lobbied their employers to encourage more Green practices, such as procurement of Green IT systems and energy saving and recycling. This figure has almost doubled since they carried out a similar survey in 2005.
So if you're an IT company that needs any of the skills that are currently in short supply, take note. Recruiting and retraining the right people may be that much harder if you're not as Green as your competitors (and if candidates chose to go somewhere else that's bad PR for you).
- In a UK Cabinet reshuffle on October 3rd the UK Prime Minister created the Department of Energy and Climate Change "to give an even greater focus to solving the twin challenges of climate change and energy supply". It brings together the Climate Change Group from Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and the Energy Group from BERR (the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) and is expected to handle responsibility for emissions trading and future climate change negotiations. Ed Miliband is the secretary of State for the new Department and he is joined by Mike O’Brien, Joan Ruddock and Lord Hunt. It's clearly a good idea to bring together the issues of climate change and energy, but a quick search suggests that only Joan Ruddock has any climate change/sustainability background.
- Britain's first auction of carbon emissions permits under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will be on November 19. A total of 85 million tonnes of EU allowances (7% of the UK's total) will be available for auction in Phase II of the scheme, which lasts through to 2012. The size of this sale and their future frequency will be announced in November. Companies have to be registered this month to take part in the auction.
- The European Parliament more-or-less held its line on the future of the ETS after 2013 by voting in favour of auctioning all permits for power generation and 15% for energy-intensive industries, rising to 100% by 2020 when the EU ETS third phase ends. The delay for power generation sectors was in response to objections from Poland and other countries (Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania) that rely heavily on coal for electricity production.
- However, in what might be seen as a move in the other direction, The Observer newspaper in the UK reported on October 12th that the EU is to debate the possibility of reducing the cost of carbon allowances to large European companies. The reason is a fear of jobs leaving the EU because of lack of investment caused by the compliance cost of the ETS, particularly in the current economic climate.
Friday, 10 October 2008
Well I may have been a little over-enthusiastic in my last posting about Google achieving a PUE of 1.15 for one of its data centres, since it doesn't seem that difficult after all. I've since heard from Deerns ('the largest consulting engineering firm in the Netherlands active in data centre design') that they can match the levels of data centre energy efficiency.
The company has a Green Cooling for Data Centres (GC-DC) concept which uses an innovative combination of free cooling (i.e. external air) and modular layout of the data centre. It's also a "pay as you grow" system, so you don't need to invest in cooling until you need it.
Enough of the advert, the point is that there are various solutions being used by a range of companies around the world and it doesn't seem that difficult to achieve these sorts of power efficiency levels ("It's not rocket science" - Deerns). The only question is whether we are comparing like with like, as I've mentioned in a previous blog.
I have had several conversations on the topic in recent days, though, and it does seem that the EPA's PUE forecasts for 2011 are actually here now. With current technology and design, after re-fitting an existing data centre you should get a PUE of around 1.7, a new build using conventional techniques will get you 1.3-1.4, but if you put some thought into it 1.15-1.2 is on the cards.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Google believes it's operating the world's most efficient data centres. The claim is based on PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) metrics from the Green Grid, which is the ratio of the total power used in the facility to the power used by the IT equipment.
The company quotes a report to the US Congress from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) which provided a set of efficiency improvement scenarios predicting future data center energy consumption and associated PUE values to 2011, as shown in the table.
According to Google, "the EPA predicted that 'state-of-the-art' data centers, employing exotic energy-efficient power and cooling technologies such as liquid cooling and combined heat-and-power energy generation solutions, could reach a PUE of 1.2".
Google claims that the PUE results from all of its six data centres with IT load of more than 5MW that have been in operation for six months or more have an average PUE of 1.21, although none used the sort of techniques that the EPA assumed necessary to reach these levels. Not only that, but one of the data centres had an annual PUE of 1.15 and had reached a quarterly PUE of 1.13. "We believe that each of these data centres is more efficient than any other comparable (i.e. real-world) data centre currently in operation". Apparently the data centres have all been built since 2005 and are in different climates.
This is impressive stuff, but I know there would be a lot of questions from many of the people I've met in the data centre industry as to how they've done it. There are more details in the paper about how the measurement was taken and calculated, but no insights into how the efficiency was achieved. I hope Google will share some of the secrets of its success, given the potential CO2 gains across the industry.
Footnote: In a previous post I ridiculed the idea that a data centre could have a PUE of less than 1.0 (which apparently has been claimed in the past). Whilst I'm sure any claims up to now have been based on a misunderstanding of the metric, the Google paper does point out that "A PUE <1 would be possible with on-site generation from waste heat, but currently this is commercially impractical to implement". I think 'commercially impractical' is putting it mildly.
Monday, 6 October 2008
Those of you dying to know what happened to the Fujitsu Siemens Computer train, carrying IT products from China to Germany, will be relieved to know that it arrived dead on time at Hamburg on Monday.
It's no mean feat, given that the company's logistic partner, DB Schenker, had to liaise with rail operators in Poland, Belarus, Russia, Mongolia and China to coordinate the journey.
Now that the route has proved to be a success FCS plans to start regular train supplies. With each trip saving 2200 tons (or is that tonnes?) of greenhouse gas emissions compared with air transport it's both environmentally friendly and cost-effective.
Lets hope they can solve the problem of the cold weather, which is too extreme to ship these sorts of products in winter.
Sunday, 5 October 2008
It seems to have gone generally unnoticed, but on September 25th the US launched its first ever auction of Carbon Dioxide allowances as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) got under way.
The RGGI (apparently pronounced "Reggie") is a joint effort by a number of north eastern US states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) to run their own cap-and-trade reduction system for CO2 emissions from power plants. It is expected that RGGI will be extended in the future to cover other companies and other types of emissions.
It seems that all the allowances available were sold and raised nearly $40m towards investments in the means to reduce CO2 emissions and increase energy efficiency, as well as alternative energy technologies.
It's pretty momentous because now there is a real price on carbon in the US. The price will become more significant over time (whoever runs the scheme) and will have to be built into the cost base of an increasing number of businesses. This is the power of legislation.
Newsday.com quotes Tony Blair (ex UK PM) as saying: “The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is an extremely important part of the overall US effort to address climate change. It represents an acknowledgment on the part of US states that climate change is an urgent problem, and more importantly, it demonstrates the will to take action to solve it". It's a shame, then, that the UK government has thus far demonstrated a lot more talk than action, particularly when it comes to CO2 emissions in the public sector. (And Blair's example of jetting round the world doesn't help). Hopefully the Climate Change Bill currently going through Parliament will change things.
Friday, 3 October 2008
CSC has just published its 2008 Global Survey of Supply Chain Progress, produced with Supply Chain Management Review (SCMR) magazine, Michigan State University, Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and Supply Chain Europe magazine.
The results are based on 294 responses mainly from corporations with a heavy emphasis on manufacturing and distribution. In total 60% of companies responding had revenues of $500m or more. The responses represented 22 industries and 32 countries, which were split into North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific for the analysis.
You can see the full report here, but there was one particularly interesting chart which I've reproduced. When it comes to improving supply chains a number of aspects were cited by respondents, including environmental/green issues and ethical trading concerns. In Europe there tended to be more areas of improvement than North America, particularly around these green issues, as well as outsourcing and supplier segmentation.
With reference to sustainability initiatives, Chuck Poirier, a partner in CSC’s Global Business Solutions group said that “Europe was an early adopter due to its greater focus on customer relationships, but sustainability is starting to be accepted as a supply chain initiative across all regions now, and more progress can be expected”.
He also pointed out that more than 80% of leaders put an emphasis on green issues, as opposed to only half of the laggards. Momentum is growing as these leaders increasingly place green responsibilities onto suppliers and promote positive results in their marketing campaigns.
The higher level of improvements around green issues in Europe compared with North America can be explained by the higher cost of fuel in Europe and also, to some extent, local legislation/environmental targets. These are factors that will spread geographically and the implications will have an impact up and down the supply chain.
Clearly the opportunities for improved IT solutions and services will expand rapidly in the coming years. Those IT services companies with a supply chain solutions and an industry track record (such as CSC) need to make sure they have Green offerings in place to prevent upstart specialists from stealing some of their business.
Thursday, 2 October 2008
The European Union is pushing for a consensus among members on climate change policy in order to have a leading role in the next round of UN talks on cutting greenhouse gasses.
You may recall that the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 and in order to get another agreement it needs to be in place by the end of 2009. The Bali talks last December was the first UN conference paving the way, with further conferences due this December in Poznan, Poland and in December 2009 in Copenhagen, where the final agreement needs to be reached.
The current EU plan is for 20% reduction in emissions (compared with 1990 levels) by 2020, together with generating 20% of energy from renewable sources. The details of the legislation and how it will be achieved are being thrashed out among the EU's 27 governments and the European Parliament.
Reuters reports that France is hoping to get a deal agreed during its EU presidency (in the second half of 2008) in time for the Poznan meeting, but some countries, particularly Poland, disagree with the current plan because they believe it would be damaging to their economy. Poland argues that its electricity prices would increase more than in any other EU state because 95% of its power currently comes from coal generation, which emits more carbon dioxide than other sources.