Monday, July 31, 2006

Book Review

For being a relatively new field of interest, green computing certainly has had a number of books written on the topic. Here are two that I have found in my travels.

The Squandered Computer - This one apparently fulfills a prophecy from the Wall Street Journal in 1996, which stated:

"In the near future somebody will write a book about how executives in the 1990's spent too much money on information technology because they were afraid to manage it properly. They put their trust in technological experts to deliver business value from I.T. investments."

Ahem. Yes. This one is full of little horror stories about the pure madness of the situation.

Made to Break - Another fun little number that concentrates on the planned obsolescence of the whole shebang. Deeply examines how waste actually got started in america with safety razors and paper shirt collars in the 19th century.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Open your Office

Solveig Haugland has a great how-to article on exactly how to make the switch from MS Office to Open Office. I love articles like these because they contain juicy information about how to actually make a sustainable change; not always easy when you are implementing a complete new system.

Measuring your Green Success

Sometimes sustainable computing is considered to be a buzzphrase for IT management. The argument goes like this; sustainability is a concept that deals with the social, environmental, and economic aspects of a given process. However, in fact what you have just described is what our IT management team does, we look at all these factors on a daily basis and make changes to the organization as needed. If we find new ideas, technologies, or processes that we determine are beneficial to the business, we 'in-corporate' them to our model. 'Sustainable Computing' is what we have been doing as long as our IT management team has been around.

Of course, this position is valid. In fact many of the easy sustainability changes can be pitched to management right along these lines e.g. getting IT to pay for the electricity they use, double-sided printing, recycling of used equipment, etc. These are items that save money and don't affect the quality of service enough not to implement.

But the necessary part is incorporating the sustainable principle into the metric that the department evaluates itself on. As this article from CIO explains, all too commonly the only metric used to evaluate performance is IT spending as a percent of revenue. The shortcomings of type of measurement are many; most salient is the fact that the budget for maintenance and the budget for R&D is collapsed into a single number. And this is where a sustainability guidelines can help out the most, by recognizing that maintenance needs to be minimized so that other programs such as research, innovation can be maximized to furthers the aims of the business. And I'm not just talking about fixed broken machines here, I'm talking about all maintenance - user problems, hardware issues, licensing schemes, environmental footprint, etc.

Want to measure your sustainable computing program? Measure your maintenance.

Woody Two Shoes, Redux

I posted a while ago about a fellow who made beautiful handmade wooden monitors and mice. I had no idea so many people were in on the game - EcoGeek has the definitive guide on all computing products wooden. There is all sorts of stuff here, Russian-styled computer cases, Swedish Ikea-style monitors, a whole line of Bamboo items, and this beautiful one of a kind "Sangaku case mod" which took over 300 hours.

Obviously it's a idea that is high on the niftyness scale; while we don't need to cut down the rainforests to prove we can make wooden computer parts, the elegance of these items is unshakeable.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Lock me in! Lock me down!

The WRT54G Router is something of a novelty as the firmware is Linux-based and open source. Unfortunately, recent versions of this model have a closed source firmware based on VxWorks. Hackers are calling foul - why go back on such a great thing?

The relationship between hardware and software vendors has always been interesting. Sometimes they "coopt-lude" so well that they Juggernaut; Wintel, for example, comes to mind. Other times it's nothing but the rawest form of power, pure reward and punish behavior. I once owned a Dell that could run nothing except Windows 98, because that was the only driver that the NIC supported. It keeps you locked in to the same set of vendors, and it keeps you locked down from too much horsing around.

There has been a few interesting hardware companies, such as Roomba, that have made interfaces to their operating systems available and opened them up. (Incidentally, I went to high school with one of the founders.) I wonder if we will see more of this? Imagine an open source washing machine where you could modify the code to do what you wanted it to, maybe some specialized cleaning job like washing loads of sneakers, or maybe for a different use entirely. It's a pretty exciting idea.

Wanna be somebody else? Change your mind.

Martin Veitch has this nice article that summarizes an ongoing battle that sustainalists have with executives. The argument has three parts, (a) saving the enviroment costs money (b) it's bad policy, and (c) the money by 'going green' amounts to nothing. I'm convinced these arguments come from the 1970's when Earth First was using thermite to melt bulldozer engines and naked hippies were chaining themselves to redwoods. These are strong mental images. Saving anything green meant paying for items that could be externalized, and even if you did do the analysis the savings was either over too long a period (more than three years? forget it.) or was dinky and could be racked up to CDB.

Martin dissects this in a honorable fashion by pointing out that the world changed over the last 30 years. It's a quick read.

A Flippersmack to the head

This is one of those articles that summarizes a topic so simply that after you read it, you have an 'aha' moment. The topic is 'Why are there desktop computers still around in business?'. I don't want to give it away, but this was the part for me:

The once mighty PC is seen as a threat, vulnerable to trojans and viruses that spread to other PCs across the network. The dominance of software licensing schemes further exacerbates this growing view that a business desktop PC is dangerous and burdensome.

Today we lock down these PCs, control them through a central IT group and call them "managed desktops." Ironically, and almost laughably, today the personal computer in business is nothing more than a storage of applications that require licensing schemes and are controlled by a central server.

Ah, the arrow of truth. Much like wireless hotspots, I can envision a hotspot network of linux terminal servers set up by people that people just connect to with their diskless client where they can surf, maybe do a little open office.


I come across lots of good reports, white papers, etc. that have a lot to say about some aspect of green computing. I thought I would post a bunch en masse.

Analysis of the Impact of Open Source Software - A good read about where OSS is giong and how much you can save by implementing it.

Sun's position paper on sustainable computing - Sun has the best strategy going on sustainable computing. Even you you don't use their equipment, it's a must read. You probably will soon.

Thin Clients - several white papers on thin clients.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Woody Two-Shoes

Wood Contour offers a whole range of wooden peripherals for your computer. Their items are truly beautiful and the craftmanship is impressive. They are not cheap - the monitor shown is $395 - but they have their place. Just drop one on the receptionist's desk to make a statement.

One Big Happy Family

Why does technology cost so much? Well, ten years ago it costs a lot because the advantage of switching the technologies was so great that companies could and would and did charge a lot for it. A lot of typing pools went out of business, click-clack.

Now it's a little different because everyone is pretty much on the same playing field. We all made the switch, at least to some degree, to take advantage of the massive efficiencies in computing. But it still costs a lot of money - according to this article, between 1 and 10 percent of most budgets. And what are they spending it on? Maintenance. You know, fixing stuff that breaks. This is about 80 percent of the typical IT budget. And you know what, here's a big secret. It's boring.

Which brings me to my point about the One Big Happy Family, I'll call it the OBHF. You can't get your company to the OBHF model if 80 percent of what you do is boring, expensive maintenance. First gradually, then permanently, this will cast a long dark pall over your IT organization until there is no room for any innovation in the computer room. My point here is that this is related to the social side of sustainable computing; when people find technology boring and expensive, they will stop using it, and that's really no good for anyone. So it's really pretty simple, just eliminate the maintenance and save the company.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

One Thin Client Per Child

I love the one laptop per child project that MIT is running. I can remember the first time I looked at Yahoo using a text-based web browser and remembering having this mind opening experience. This overwhelming sense that, wow, this Internet thing would change the world.
Unfortunately, not everyone is agreeing, as India has just opted out of the One Laptop Per Child program. Education Secretary Sudeep Banerjee summed it up, saying:

"We cannot visualise a situation for decades when we can go beyone the pilot stage. We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools."

I don't know if I agree with the statement or not; what it does call into question for me is appropriate use of technology that is sustainable. Lots of companies have no problem spending money on technology - it's the future, we need to compete, etc. But here's a entire nation that is essentailly saying "we are not going to spend $100 dollars for universal access to one of the most basic forms of technology." It makes you wonder.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Thanks for the Free Money

It's a rare individual who can actually flush a twenty dollar bill down a toilet. Go ahead, try it. I bet you couldn't do it. The reason is that most people don't take the real cash and waste it, they have to convert it into something else that they have an easier time wasting. So, go buy some plastic forks and knives - see how easy they are to throw away? Go buy a magazine, read it a few times, then trash it. There you go, that's 5 or 6 bucks right there. You're doing fine.

How about this one. Go become an IT manager who is responsible for 10,000 desktops. Mandate a two or three year cycle for equipment, then when the cycle comes around just start throwing perfectly good computers in the trash. The working monitors too. Just throw it all away and buy brand new stuff, and when you do it put the latest Wintel operating system on them too, which surprisingly didn't run on your two year old equipment. Sounds Nuts? It's absolutely standard business practice.

Enter Newmarket, a firm that takes all of this gear and then resells it. They just received $50 million in venture capital funding to expand their business. The refurb market is hot, and huge - it's a $1.5 billion dollar business that is growing at 45 percent annually. Just to give you a sense of it, Newmarket processed and resold 1.3 million units last year; Dell alone shipped 37 million.

There's some story about a fool and their money which I'm recalling right now. I'm can't remember how it ends, I think I'll Google it and see.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Amory Lovins, on the war path...

to set the record straight on actual electricity usage for computer nationwide in the U.S. In this article (from 2001) Amory claims the 8 to 13 percent number to power our computing infrastructure that I often hear is not quite right, it's a confabulation the Western Fuels Association. In reality, the number is more like 2 percent. Is it true? I'm not sure, my impression is that it probably was at the time (2001), but now it is probably out of date. But how out of date is the question.

Perhaps this article from CIO has the part of the answer. Lovins claims a racks of servers in 2001 used 30 to 60 watts per square foot. however, CIO mag states that:

...a rack of servers installed in data centers just two years ago might have consumed 2 kilowatts and emitted 40 watts of heat per square foot. Newer, "high-density" racks, which cram more servers into the same amount of space, are expected to consume as much as 25 kilowatts and give off as much as 500 watts of heat per square foot by the end of the decade.

So, it loooks like it was stable for a while but now is rocketing upwards. This doesn't seem to mean too much - more dense servers obviously means more power consumption - and of course the data center is the whipping boy for the whole power/computing debate as a whole.

Some projections seem a litte nuts - 50 percent of our energy budget towards cyberinfrastructure by 2020. RAND seemed more realistic in 2002 with 5 percent, but quality and reliability will outpace the cost of the electricity itself.

Silver and Gold, Silver and Gold

EPEAT now has some products in their database. For those you you not in the know:

EPEAT is a procurement tool to help institutional purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes. EPEAT also provides a clear and consistent set of performance criteria for the design of products, and provides an opportunity for manufacturers to secure market recognition for efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its products.

Right now, they only have 69 products that are rated according to green computing standards, and none of them are rated 'gold'. I'm sure the number will blossom in the next few weeks - it will be interesting to see how it it affect purchasing decisions, and how much news coverage it will get. HP and Dell are already getting coverage.

P.S. The title is from yet another movie, actually, a song from a movie. See if you can guess.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Is this funny?

I'm finding that I like to quote old movies in these posts. The title for this one comes from "A Few Good Men" Cruise is questioning Nicholson 'bout his involvement in the 'Code Red' and asks "Is this funny?".

His answer, at the end of this post is reminiscent of what's happening with the power supply this summer. Numerous brownouts and blackout have already been reported including the following:



San Diego

St. Louis

With computers using 8 to 13 percent of the US power supply, you can bet that some business are taking a beating. "Is this Funny?" As Colonel Nathan R. Jessup responds "No, its tragic".

Saturday, July 22, 2006

More Green Hosting

These guys are another green web hosting agency with a nice package. Starting at 50 pounds a year, they will also plant a tree on your behalf, have solar powered offices, and are paperless to boot. I think this is affordable enough for folks to start competing with traditional hosting. Coupled with a business marketing plan that wants to make an eco impression for their customers, it's a good bet.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Three's a (virtual) crowd

Vmware, a popular developer of virtualization software, is calling foul on the recent deal with Microsoft and Xen to allow virtualized servers to run on Windows. Calling it a "one-way street", Vm points out that the agreement only allows Linux to run on Windows through Xen, not the other way around. Of course, it doesn't mention that Vmware won't be virtualized in any way, shape, or form under the agreement.

Is it a slippery slope? Could be, could be, Microsoft is certainly adroit at getting in the thin end of the wedge. It could also be a misdirection to expand into other turf of other competitors, say, Google.

My guess is that this is going to open up a Pandora's box where something totally unexpected is going to happen, because virtual environments promote these sorts of things. Someone is going to find a twist that completely subverts the intentions of this deal. What will it be? I don't know. Maybe someone finds a bug. Maybe Apple, maybe Vmware, comes in with a great idea that uses the technology to host iTunes, or World or Warcraft. Who knows, something. Something unexpected. Watch this space.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Keep out of the Pokey with Thin Computing

It's nice to mix it up by adding in some articles on sustainable computing that deal with the social aspects. Generally, these are the ones that get the boardroom to respond. Steve Kaplan has a nice article here on how the Sarbanes-Oxley Act can push companies towards the thin client solution. He writes:

Beyond providing an environment much more conducive to satisfying Sarbanes-Oxley, a thin-client architecture also makes far more economic sense than a distributed computing environment. For instance, individual PCs no longer need upgrading in order to accommodate more resource-intensive applications or operating systems. Remote offices generally do not require servers, tape backups, UPS devices or network administrators. And the requirement for PC-support technicians goes away (if a PC breaks, it generally is replaced with an inexpensive Windows terminal that has no moving parts at all and a meantime between failure measured in decades).

I've said before that there sustainability is composed of three parts - economic, social, and environmental. Steve's suggestion is a win, win, win.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

All these Whirring Blades

Now here's a novel idea, Pembina is offering wind power certificates to offset the electricity that your computer will use. It seems like you pay them to balance the carbon offset of the power that your computer will use over the course of your laptop or desktop's lifetime. The figures they are using to caclulate emission seem low - 30 watts for a laptop and 120 watts for a desktop which they got from Tufts University. Doesn't seem right, with the new processors from Intel and AMD coming in by themselves between 160 and 192 Watts. This puts the typical system up in the 250 watt range.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Pressure and Time

Kelvyn Taylor lays it down for us, describing exactly what it is going to take to get sustainable computing into the mainstream. Kelvyn takes the position that things will eventually change when consumers start demanding the green product. I'm sure this is a major part of it, not that anyone is running out and asking my opinion right now.

But the other part is the waste. Taylor sums it up here:

Mention environmentalism in relation to IT and it’s usually a debate about a CPU’s power consumption or clever power management modes and recycling scams. But as I found out after following up some of Diamond’s references, the total energy consumed during a PC’s lifespan is only about 19 percent of its overall energy impact – the rest is used during its production.

All too true, especially the part about 81 percent of the energy in computing being used to make the iron. That's about ten times of the weight of the PC, probably the most wasteful thing in common use on Earth. Cars have a 1:1 ratio.

I read an article about transportation a while saying that planes will be the first thing to go, because flight is so fundamentally costly. There's a lot of evidence that that is the case, with national airlines folding and a lot of the US ones in bankruptcy. Could the computer be the first thing to go? More importantly, and I don't know the answer, how can they be so cheap?

Now, Xen

I'm constantly amazed at how many technolgies are about there that really promote the use of green computing. It seems like the avalanche is coming - one day, it is just Mark poking about on his blog extolling the virtues of GC, and the next day everyone will be doing it.

Xen takes GC up a level. It is a open source virtualization softwatre that allows you to run many different servers on a single piece of hardware. There are other packages out there - VMWare, for instance - but this one happens to be free. I love this quote from the site:

"Our grandchildren will say, 'I can't believe you used to run computers that weren't virtualized,'" predicts Margaret Lewis, commercial software strategist with AMD. Both AMD and Intel have built virtualization hooks that help Xen and other virtualization software run efficiently on their new dual-core chips that will start appearing in servers in 2006.

This can only get better and better. How many servers can you cram onto a single box? I know a lot of sysadmins like to run one application per server, but with Xen you can still do this and save computing resources. No Windows yet, it seems, but they will cave. They will have to, it's the future, now.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Fat, Thin Client Thingy

You may have heard about the Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs from Microsoft, which was just released. It is being billed as a thin client that can also run a few programs locally. Which programs they don't say, but it can't be much:

Microsoft won't guarantee that it will run most of the hundreds of thousands of Windows programs. The company won't even promise support for Office, perhaps the most ubiquitous of Windows programs. Office and other business software will be able to be run off a server and viewed on Eiger-based PCs using Microsoft's remote desktop software or thin client software from Citrix and others.

So here we have it, the fat, thin client thingy. It's being billed as a 'bridge product' for corporate customers who can't afford Windows XP right now, but want to integrate all of their machines into standardized security framework. Sounds fine, but the name is wrong. I think it shoud be called a 'dam product', because it seems to be an effort to keep those desktop from falling into the thin client world. Brian Madden has a nice short writeup on this. If they would concentrate on resolving the virtual client licensing problems for software and fully switch over, maybe we would all be better off.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Bad Data Center, Bad

A few days ago the House of Representatives approved, by 417-4, to approve the EPA to look into the adoption of energy efficient data centers. Certainly this is worth a lookee or two- from the article, "41 percent of Fortune 500 IT executives identified power and cooling as problems for their data centers", and we all know that some of these data centers take up as much power as the City of Honolulu. Honolulu, fun word.

I've been meditating on this. It reminds me of An Inconvenient Truth, where Al talks about the frog in the beaker. If you haven't seen it, and you must, the frog in the beaker goes like this: put a frog in a beaker. If you turn the gas up slowly, the frog will cook itself, because it doesn't respond to the gradual heat. But if you put a frog in a beaker with boiling hot water, the frog jumps right out.

Data centers are the boiling water of IT - there are thousands of computers there, cranking out 4000 watts per square foot. Of course they use a boatload of energy. If you need a poster child for green computing, they are it. They are it by 417-4. I seriously wonder why 4 representatives voted against it.

But what happens when the gas is turned up slowly? The other 1.1 billion computers that are out there, using 250 billion kilowatt-hours a year. This death of a thousand paper cuts, how will we legistlate this? I think there's some interesting sociological research to be done here. Because if we are only going to investigate the boiling water, our goose is cooked.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Stare at the Sun...

and your jaw will drop. Jonathan Schwartz reviews a new product from Sun called 'Thumper' that virtually embodies the sustainability movement. Basically just a 'General Purpose System' packed to the gills with hard drives, Sun is:

...still figuring out what to call the product, "open source storage" or "a data server," but by running a general purpose OS on a general purpose server platform, packed to the gills with storage capacity, you can actually run databases, video pumps or business intelligence apps directly on the device itself, and get absolutely stunning performance. Without custom hardware (ZFS puts into software what was historically done with specialized hardware). All for around $2.50/gigabyte - with all software included.

The key is that a lot of the customized components have been replaced with customized software to interact with the generic box. That idea is revolutionary, because now hardware suppliers can just build one thing and get it right - remove all the toxins, use recyclable components, etc. and software can control it. Furthermore, Thumper just eliminates huge amounts of infrastructure because you can run an entire Enterprise System on a single box. Not only that I can't tell how excited I'm getting over this thing, I'm in awe.

Poor, Poor Panda

I've had a few posts here where I have pointed out some of the shortcomings of Apple's sustainability model, so I thought I would include this one to illustrate some of the more positive examples of their behavior. Note that I actually really like Apple, they are one of the most innovative companies out there and have been for years.

So, the post. Angry Panda is has a nice post here connecting the dots between Peak Oil and energy use, suggesting that the reason for Apple switching over to the Intel processor is really, as Apple claims, that performance per watt is better. Mr. Panda hacks and slashes at the question as to whether Apple did this because they knew Peak Oil was right around the bend. As a sideline, if you aren't familiar with Peak Oil, here's a nice first timer from the Oil Drum. I especailly like his link to deregulation of the energy industry, which is causing massive spikes of 72 perccnt in Maryland and 59 percent in Delaware.

Certainly, Apple is doing the right thing thing here, trying to make their devices more energy efficient. In fact, energy is a big deal with the iPods, people want to go as long as possible without recharging them. As I've mentioned before, consumers are willing to pay more for a green apple.

It's the right thing to do - it is enough to compete with other technologies such as Sun Microsystem's Sun Ray, or the Linux Terminal Server Project? Probably not in the networked world, but they are getting to a level playing field.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Linux on the Desktop

I just installed Linux on a desktop yesterday. We had this old Windows server that wouldn't boot any more, so I thought I would give the old Ubuntu a try. I installed it and it immediately worked, first time!

Certainly Linux on the desktop is the future - it's too easy, it's too easy to maintain, it runs on modest hardware requirements, etc. This post has the definitive discussion as to why its not there already.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bright Green Computing

I often read worldchanging, it's a great blog that covers quite a few green topics. This is a very nice piece that summarizes a lot of the devleopments that have occured in green computing over in the last few years. A terrific primer chock full of factoids.

(Cr)apple Redux

A recent poll by Macworld suggested that 60 percent of Macuser would pay more for a greener computer. Only 8 percent said that they don't care if Macs are green or not. At first thought, it seemed like this was a good thing, but now I'm not so sure.

I'm not sure if this is the right type of driver to run a sustainability movement, because it requires the open hearted consumer to do the paying. This model is about as big a mystery to me as all of the private fundraising for Hurricane Katrina. Don't get me wrong, I think it great that people are contributing to help out others, I do this myself and I actually did contribute to Hurricane Katrina. But I can't help wondering that, as a policy, if relying on goodhearteness from for private individuals is really the right road. With Katrina, the implicit policy seems to be "there will be no hurricane relief unless you the people provide it." For green products, it sounds like "I will never see a green product until I actually shell out cash to get it produced."

It reminds of of buying cold medicine for my son Elliot. I can't remember the brand, but one of the medicines is purple-colored and will stain clothes if you get it on them, which you almost certainly will when feeding it to a wobbly kid. But, they have another type, the non-staining formula, which costs several dollars more for the same bottle. Yeah, I want the non-staining formula, take the dye out of your product.

I want the green computer too, take the toxins out. Figure it out, take them out. They don't need to be there any more than the dye in the medicine does.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Brits Kill Vampire Power

Vampire power is energy that is used even when hte equipment is turned off. Grinningplanet thinks that its about 10 percent of of a typical household or business use. That can really add up, for having little led's blinking all night long for the mice to eat crumbs by.

Use Kill a Watt for testing for vampire power. Computers vampire away only a few watts, but stereos, tv sets? Jeepers.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Web of Green

Sustainability is one of those things where you just aren't going to find one single thing to do that will solve all of our problems.
I think that everyone knows this, but it's funny when you try it out. Say, for example, you are a 20 million dollar company. I come in and say "I can save you $20,000 a year by doing this on your network." The response often is, "Oh, that's nothing." Well, yeah, compared to $20 million, it's realtively nothing, but when combined with similar programs over time, it's not just nothing, it's making your business competitive.

I going to include real things you can do to start making the changes in your organization. This article mentions some of them:

  • Require your IT department purchase Energy-Star Equipment.
  • Require your IT department to pay for the cost of the electricity they use out of their budget.
  • Require your IT department to pay for disposal costs out of their budget.

There's three. You don't have to be the CEO to implement it, just put the bug in the right people's ear.

WEEE Man, Still Tiny

The WEEE Man is a sculpture made out of the average amount of electronic junk that a typical UK citizen will throw away during their lifetime. He was created to raise awareness of the eWaste problem, but apparently it's harder to recycle electronics than one would think. The stuff is just too integrated, it can't be taken apart easily. This reminds me of eating blues crabs in the shell - a lot of work for very little meat.

My takeaway from this article is that the 'recycling hierarchy' - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - is very, very important when is comes to electronic stuff. It seems like Recycling is the primary focus of most of these schemes, yet it is clearly the most ineffective from a sustainability perspective. However, from an economic perspective, it is probably the best because you can keep reselling the same stuff to people over and over.

Reduce, Reuse - when do you ever hear about these items? Drawing on 38 years of experiences, I can hardly think of any examples, in any situations. We reuse lunch trays at the cafeteria. We reuse auto parts. I just bought reused cup holders for my Passat - the originals were, and I kid you not, $150 dollars new. And sometimes I hear about water shortages where a pleas is made to reduce the amount of water being used. That's pretty much it, every thing is recycle, re-cycle, re-cycle. Run it through the system again.

Reduce and reuse are hard because it often creates winners and losers. If you reduce something, ther's going to be a power shift, and that's going to be resisted. If you tell your IT department that they have to pay for the electricity and recycling costs for the equipment they buy, they won't like it. You are reducing their budget to reduce costs. But really, it's the only way that works.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Another 90 Percent

This post from Joel Makower is yet another one that suggests IT costs can be reduced by 90 percent. At least, some of them, particular energy. It covers SUN's new processors, and has a few tidbits in there on energy use that gives one pause:

When U.S. Dataport, a company in San Jose, Calif., planned a $1.2 billion server farm "that would be the world's largest data center," it called for "10 huge air-conditioned warehouses on 174 acres that would constantly draw 180 megawatts of electricity -- about enough to provide energy for all the homes in a city the size of Honolulu."


UK Corporate IT Goes Greener

What a great article to mention that sustainability is composed of three factors - economic, social, and environmental. NOT just environmental. Looks like the Brits are looking into better ways to run their IT operations:

The combined pressures of environmental legislation, rising energy costs and uncertainty over power sources are forcing UK firms and IT vendors to find ways to use less power, decrease harmful emissions and build “green” equipment.

Experts at June's meeting of the UK Datacentre Networking Group warned that the combination of a European directive on the energy performance of buildings, the UK government’s energy review and renewable planning policy, and London’s energy strategy will transform companies’ power usage in the future.

I often wonder what the biggest drivers will be to affect this change, I think power will be a big one Check out The Oil Drum for ongoing commentary on how we really are running out of oil and how high prices are going to go.

Scenic E Released

Fujitsu Siems has released their SCENIC E Series. The Scenic E is built with specially selected materials to minimize impact on the environment. Development, selection of material, production, transportation and recycling all follow our strict internal environmental guidelines.

The interesting thing for me is that it runs Linux, which suggests that Fujitsu Siemens really thought about this product on several levels. Great Job!


Picture this: you come up with a great idea. You sink ten of millions of dollars researching, developing, inventing, distributing, and marketing this product. Then you get a letter from a government agency to pull every product in several countries because it doesn't comply with their environmental standards for recycling. Sound crazy? It just happened to Apple.

Apple was forced to stop European sales of several products at the to comply with the EU's Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) directive.

Apple had to pull the iSight, AirPort Base Station With Modem, AirPort Base Station Power Over Ethernet and Antenna, iPod shuffle External Battery Pack and the eMac from sales in all stores. All of these products contained banned substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and brominated flame retardants.

A lot of companies, particularly US companies, don't understand that products need to meet environmental requirements to be sold in other countries. Microsoft had a similar events with the release of their xBox in Ireland; 250,000 units sat on the docks because there was a battery in the xBox that contained mercury. And Ireland does not allow mercury in any products sold on its soil. No Mercury. No Sales.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Recycling, It's Just a Word

Remember that scene in the Shawshank Redemption where Morgan Freeman comes up for parole the last time? The officer asks him if he has been rehabilitated and he answers:

Not a day goes by I don't feel regret, and not because I'm in here
or because you think I should. I look back on myself the way I
was...stupid kid who did that terrible crime...wish I could talk
sense to him. Tell him how things are. But I can't. That kid's long
gone, this old man is all that's left, and I have to live with that.
"Rehabilitated?" That's just a word, so you just go on ahead and
stamp that form there, sonny, and stop wasting my time.

Let's fast forward ten years and interview an IT professional who sent all their eWaste to China. The interviewer asks them if they have recycled all their equipment; they answer:

Not a day goes by I don't feel regret, and not because you think I should. I look back on myself the way I was... a stupid IT professional who thought it was ok to send my eWaste to China ...wish I could talk sense to him. Tell him how things are. But I can't. That professional's long gone, this old man is all that's left, and I have to live with that. "Recycling in China?" That's just a word, so you just go on ahead and stamp that form there, sonny, and stop wasting my time.

The eWaste guide has some disturbing images on how various forms of computer equipment, including Cabling, Monitors, and Circuit boards are recycled in China. The only thing they missed is that some of this work is done by children - I guess they scattered when the cameras came, but this report got them.

The US is sending 50 to 80 percent of its eWaste to places like these. If you need more horror, here's the study released by Greenpeace on the topic.

Iron Facts

People who are not familiar with eWaste often need a few
numbers to help them realize the enormity of the problem.
Here are some facts taken the Griffith University's
web page on eWaste:

  • Every year 20 to 50 million tonnes of E-Waste are generated worldwide.
  • 4 million computers are discarded every year in China.
  • In India, 14 million computers, 39 million telephones and 18 million televisions are projected to reach end of life by 2010.
  • During 1997 and 2004, 315 million computers became obsolete in the USA. This resulted in the discard of 550 million kg of lead, 900,000 kg of cadmium, 180,000 kg of mercury and 500,000 kg of chromium VI. This also resulted in additional waste in the form of 1800 million kg of plastics, 159 million kg brominated flame-retardants from monitors.
  • Disposal of E-Waste in landfills accounts for 40% of lead in landfills.
  • 22% of annual world consumption of mercury is used in electronic devices.
  • By 2005, one computer will become obsolete for every new one put on the market.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

All Solar Hosting

Here's another solar powered hosting/datacenter service, this one is a little diferent in that they are completely powered by the sun. Compared to other plans they are fairly pricey - $25 for 50MB and 1 GB data transfer - but the price is comparatively low. I'm considering moving New View over here. It's a really neat idea, a great marketing tool for any site involved in new technologies.

Here's another article on the company.

Shelling out Green for the Green

This study conducted by Ipsos-Mori (PDF) on behalf of Greenpeace International of consumers in nine countries finds consumers are generally willing to pay more for an environmentally-friendly PC, as opposed to a less-expensive machine containing more toxic chemicals and other components which end up as hazardous waste.

Ipsos Mori interviewed roughly 1,000 people in each of nine countries (India, Great Britain, Thailand, China, Mexico, Poland, the Philippines, Brazil, and Germany) and found, in countries where PC ownership of survey respondents was high enough to be statistically signficant, consumers would pay from $58 to $226 extra for a more environmentally friendly PC. the survey also found that some 49 percent of respondents feel that manufacturers should bear responsibility for hazardous waste from discarded PC and electronics products.

One item I hear over and over again is that no one wants to pay for sustainability. This usually comes from the fact that people concentrate on the environmental aspect of sustainability, when in fact there are three facets to the term - environmental, economic, and social. When I hear this, I always ask the questions "Don't you invest in your company?" (yes) , "Don't you invest in your employees?" (yes), "Don't you want to invest in a system that makes the companies and employees possible?" Dull thuds in the room.

Sustainability has always been viewed as an expense because it was an expense. Why pay for something when you can free ride on cheap electric, subsidized gasoline, free landfill space, etc., etc. This was our fathers' world, our grandfathers' world. But these things are things of the past, with energy prices soaring, $75 a barrel oil, and ever increasing disposal fees, no one wants to live in that reality anymore. Economically, few people can. Socially, they don't want to. Environmentally, it's the necessary thing to do.

Joe Bloggs chooses sustainability for three reasons, not just one.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Energy Star Gets An Upgrade

The Energy Star site is a treasure trove of tons of documents, recs, and studies related to the energy standard. They are currently working on version 4. Particularly interesting on the stakeholder comments on the equipment.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Open Source Outllook

We all know that Open Source is making massive inroads into the conventional IT organization, a trend that certainly going to continue its rapid trajectory. Scalix is an open source alternative to the popular exchange server that is a serious contender for replacing this popular email processor. As usual, there are massive benefits - initial cost, TCO, freeing your neck from the upgrade cycle, etc. ,etc. Other options also include Open-Xchange and Zimbra. That the nice thing about open source, you have options, lots of them. And, it's like, free.

Another 90 Percent

Certainly Energy is a important battleground for a lot of the up and coming technology, everyone seems to be trying to develop equipment that uses less and less. Processors, Laptop batteries, mobile devices, etc., etc., everyones hopping on board here.

Including Wyse, the king of the thin terminal. The latest story from them is that thinnies are 90 percent more efficient than desktops:

"Traditional PCs pump electricity into idle processors, spinning hard drives and local cooling systems -- a tremendous waste of resources," said Jeff McNaught, Vice President, Marketing and Customer Support at Wyse Technology. "By contrast, thin clients contain no moving parts and use little electricity, adding low energy costs to the list of reasons why the TCO of a thin client is 40 percent less than a PC."

So true, so true. Add in the centralized administration, the extended lifespan of 10-12 years per terminal, and you have got to wonder why more organizations aren't using them. Obviously one big problem is old thinking, where 80 percent of the
typical IT budget is allocated for maintenence, and the IT personnel would rather fix stuff than be unemployed by introducing new technology. Seems simple enough to point out that the R&D budget could be increased greatly if the maintenence was reduced.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Washington tags manfacturers for recycling

A lot of states are starting to charge for the recycling of electronic equipment. Generally, there are two schemes for this; one passes along the entire cost to the manufacturers (an approach known as the producer responsibility model); the other hands the entire cost to consumers (the advance recovery fee, or ARF, model). Different states are going in different directions. Maine, where I live, did the ARF model, as did California. Washington is going the manufacturer responsibility route.

Solar Powered Data Host

Affordable Internet Services Online (AISO) is now offering web hosting, colocation, and some other services at their facility in Romoland, California. The cool thing about it is that the whole data center is powered by solar! I looked at the prices, $9.99 for web hosting, with a comparable plan to many other vendors offering similar services.

With most typical data centers running at about 4,000 watts per square foot, we will probably see more systems like these. Their setup seems pretty advanced (Here is their heat removal system) - this alone reduces their cooling bill by 70 percent.

Munich puts Linux on 14,000 desktops

After some issues related to open source patents were resolved last week, the City of Munich is moving 80 percent of their desktops to Linux. I'm not a big advocate for Linux specifically - whatever tool does the job - but I got to believe that this will results in huge cost savings for the City. Let's hope they pour it into the Biergarten. And that's a pun.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Talk, The Talk

Linux cuts Kent's police department costs by 90 percent. This is what we are after, sustainability stories. 90 percent! That's a number.

Kill a Watt

Kill a Watt is a little device to see how much your computer equipment is drawing for power. These numbers always seem to be all over the place, mostly because they depend on a variety of factors such as your processor, monitor size, hard drive, power supply, etc. I've seen numbers from 30 to 250 dollars per year for running a single desktop, quite a range.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Green Operating System - Linux

Part of the idea behind this blog is that green computing covers more than just the environmental aspects. Sure, we want make sure that we not using a lot of heavy metals in their production, or those 15 inch monitors you have lying around with ten pounds of lead in them don't end up in the farmer's field. But we also want to be sure sure that we are delivering IT services as efficiently as possible. It's a pretty simple equation: efficiency = $. It's a money thing. How much money? Most IT budgets could be cut in half.

This is a fun article on the merits of using Linux to save money in this way. Lot of good points here.

The Iron is cheaper than the power

This article is from 2005 but its still timely. The notion is that it cost more to run a server in power than it does to buy the iron. This is at 9 cents per kilowatt-hour, but prices are going much higher. I quote:
If server power consumption grows 20 percent per year, the four-year cost of a server's electricity bill will be larger than the $3,000 initial price of a typical low-end server with x86 processors. Google's data center is populated chiefly with such machines. But if power consumption grows at 50 percent per year, "power costs by the end of the decade would dwarf server prices," even without power increasing beyond its current 9 cents per kilowatt-hour cost, Barroso said.
How many IT people see the electric bills? A break even on this would be interesting.

Equal Footing

If you're going to compare an IBM to a DELL to a Lenovo to determine how green they are, it helps to have a standard. EPEAT is that standard, and its pretty comprehensive - covers performance, heavy metals, recycled content, Energy Star, takeback, packing, a ton of other stuff, and is IEEE certified!

The Standard uses Performance Tiers to evaluate electronic product – Bronze, Silver and Gold. The complete set of performance criteria includes 23 required criteria and 28 optional criteria in 8 categories. To qualify for acceptance as an EPEAT product, it must conform to all the required criteria. Manufacturers may pick and choose among the optional criteria to boost their EPEAT baseline “score” to achieve a higher-ranking level

The registry of equipment is not up yet but will be July 10 or so.