Monday, July 30, 2007

Thin Is In: Interview With Stephen Yeo of IGEL

Thin is in, and in this interview Mr. Yeo proves it.

Can you explain what IGEL does?

IGEL Technology is one of the world’s top 5 thin client vendors and is market leader in its home country of Germany (2006 IDC). We have offices in Augsburg (Germany), Fort Lauderdale (USA) and Reading (UK). We produce the industry’s widest range of thin clients, based on Linux and Microsoft Windows, giving our customers access to the broadest range of thin client devices and the richest set of digital services on the market today. Our hardware is supported by the IGEL Remote Management Suite, giving customers maximum remote control with minimum cost and hassle. IGEL’s range of thin clients includes thin client conversion cards for PCs, traditional form factors, ultra-mobile tablets, LCD integrated terminals and multi-screen units. Our company puts security at the heart of its design principles and offers smartcard support across all of its products.

What is your sales volume? How many customers do you have? How long have you been in business?

IGEL Technology GmbH has been developing and selling thin clients since 1988. Founded in Augsburg, IGEL is a subsidiary of Bremen-based C. Melchers GmbH & Co. Melchers is a 201 year old trading company with worldwide trading activities and branches in many countries.

We currently have about 9500 customers including some of the biggest companies in the world – DaimlerChrysler, United Rentals, Ethicon Inc., US Cold Storage, Summit Polymers, Scania, and Akzo Nobel.

Can you explain what a thin client is for the audience?

Generally speaking, a thin client is a centrally-managed computer without a hard disk drive in which the bulk of the data processing occurs on the server. The application software, data, and CPU power resides on a network server rather than on the client computer. As a result, thin clients are not as vulnerable to malware attacks, have a longer life cycle, use less power and are less expensive to purchase.

What is the average replacement cycle for your thin clients? How does this compare to a PC? Do you have any plans to extend it?

Generally, thin clients demonstrate lower breakdown rates and a longer service life than PCs because of the fan-free design, which makes them less susceptible to malfunctions especially in more dusty environments. Thin clients are also small, taking up little space, and all components subject to wear and tear can be dispensed with. Consequently, they offer a maximum length of service life, which can be many years.

We cannot quote reliability numbers versus PCs since each manufacturer uses different MTBF criteria and methods of calculation.

Thin clients last longer than PCs since all the necessary hardware upgrades needed for new operating systems, applications and storage are all done in the data center. As long as the thin client has an adequate screen resolution and software client needed to access your infrastructure, such as the latest version of Citrix ICA client or a JVM, then a thin client remains useful for many years. Some customers have successfully used the same thin clients for 6-7 years.

How long is the warranty for your equipment? How does this compare to the typical PC?

The standard warranty on IGEL thin client terminals is two years. We also offer a Buyer Plan that extends all the benefits that customers receive during the first and second year of ownership from the Manufacturer’s warranty, through the third year of ownership. The Buyer Plan is free, however, customers need to register their product within 90 days from the date of purchase. Once we receive the IGEL Warranty Registration, we will send a confirmation and customers will be covered for three years. The warranty extension is not associated with any further costs.

The warranty period for IGEL thin clients is similar to PCs.

Is there anything that you need a PC to do that a thin client cannot do?

Playing games, since they need a powerful DirectX graphics card for screen generation.

What is the average energy use of your equipment? How does this compare to the thin client industry standard?

The average energy consumption of our thin clients is between 40-50 watts and that’s including server and data room cooling. This is half the energy consumption of traditional PCs, which consume about 85 watts.

Stand alone, IGEL thin clients consume on average 10-20 watts of power. This is similar to other manufacturers, although IGEL is the first vendor to have conducted scientific studies into the green benefits of using such technology.

The TCO numbers for thin clients are well known, and have consistently been shown to be much lower than a PC infrastructure. Why then aren't IT departments moving to thin clients? What will be the tipping point for them?

The thin client market has been steadily growing year on year at about 25% and last year represented more than 2.75M units WW. Since almost all these units were replacing desktop PCs in the business sector, this represents a significant slice of this market place.

For static workers, the thin client will become more and more prevalent, especially as IT departments look to become more energy efficient and in industries where security and compliance issues are crucial. However, those workers who need to bring their computers with them will continue to use laptop PCs.

From an environmental perspective, what are the advantages of going with thin clients? Any disadvantages?

There are an array of environmental advantages for using thin clients versus traditional PCs from lower material use to reduced energy costs and less carbon emission. In fact, IGEL thin clients were used in a recent study conducted by the world-renowned Fraunhofer Institute in Germany – the study is an environmental comparison of thin clients versus comparable PCs. In this study, thin clients were found to have significant power, environmental and financial savings. In fact, by switching from a PC to a thin client environment, U.S. businesses could save about $354.7 million in electricity bills and slash CO2 emissions by about 2.45 billion pounds a year. The full report can be found at by following this link.

Not only do thin clients reduce CO2 emissions and energy during use, they also save energy and waste during manufacture and transport – compared with PCs they have 35%-40% of the weight and 19%-30% of the volume. They are also easier to recycle since they have far less materials and are simpler.

What is your take on free software? Do your thin clients support it? Overall, do you think the TCO of using free software is less or more than commercial packages? If so, for which ones?

IGEL has been a pioneer in using Linux as a thin client operating system (we were the second largest supplier of Linux thin clients in 2005) and our customers benefit from using open source code within our units. Because many of our thin clients are based on Linux and we have so much experience with it, we can give organizations easy access to Linux-based infrastructures using the X-Windows or NX protocols.

Gartner predicts that energy will account for 50 percent of the typical IT budget by 2012. Do you agree with this number? How do thin client initiatives help to reduce this number?

All the evidence points to energy taking an increasing amount of the IT budget and 50% by 2012 is perfectly possible. This is especially true if the cost of air conditioning is taken into account for the data center and work place. This is often missed out in calculations. For every watt generated by a piece of IT equipment, 1W-3W of air conditioning power is needed to remove it depending on the efficiency and location of the air conditioner.

As noted above, thin clients have been found to be more energy efficient than comparable PCs by about 51% -- and that includes the energy costs of servers and data room cooling. By switching to thin clients, businesses could save $354.7 million in electricity bills alone.

Organizations will be able to make significant reductions in CO2 and energy from IT using a combination of thin clients, virtualization, and 64 bit computing.

What is the future of thin clients? Any exciting upcoming technologies?

Our vision for the future of thin client computing is to have a single device with many functions – we see thin clients as a platform for digital service and device consolidation. Just like electricity, you’ll be able to plug into a network and access all the digital services you need: your email, office productivity suites, enterprise applications, voice, or streaming images. All of these digital services would be hosted elsewhere on the network, but you could have easy access to them from a single, easy-to-manage, secure device. Thin clients will grow to be more expandable, simple, flexible and scalable.

In regards to our own products, we are certainly making strides toward these digital service goals and plan to introduce new features to our devices later this year.

Will we see more or less of these things, and what are the biggest drivers for these changes?

The thin client market is certainly growing and will continue to grow – especially as businesses face more security and compliance issues. Thin clients, because they are innately less susceptible to viruses and malware and because they have little internal memory, are ideal for companies that need to meet strict security and compliance regulations.

The growth of new forms of server-based computing, such as VoIP, will accelerate the use of multi-use thin clients that help device consolidation and reduce complexity on the desktop.

In addition, as environmental concerns continue to grow and as businesses look to become more green, the energy and other environmental savings offered by thin clients will become increasingly important and lead many companies to reconsider their use of traditional PCs to reap the cost and energy savings of thin clients.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

PowerTOP For Linux Adds Hours to Battery Life

Power usage is a hot topic for computer users everywhere. For some, it's a matter of how long a laptop lasts without being plugged in. For others, it's controlling the temperature of hundreds of systems within a datacenter. For all of us, it's about keeping the electricity bill under control and being kind to the environment.

I have focused on all kinds of ways to save computer-related energy. There's PowerEscape, a tool to optimize algorithms. There's Black Google which is making the rounds today, and there's switching to thin clients. But now there's a new tool which can cut your personal PC power consumption almost in half.

It is rare to find a tool that actually digs into your machine to analyze each program that is running for power use. But Powertop from Intel does exactly this - it's a tool which provides information on reducing power usage, tips, and tricks for Intel-based computers running Linux. PowerTOP looks right at the programs you are running; by fixing (or closing) these applications, you can immediately realize the power savings. You'll also see the estimated time left for battery power if you are running a laptop.

This stuff is not for the faint of heart - they talk about rebuilding the Linux kernel like they are ordering a pizza - but the savings are incredible; one guy extended his battery life from 4 to 7 hours. If you're not a kernel hacker, don't worry, the power improvement will surely be included in the next Linux release. :: Linux PowerTOP

San Fran Goes Dark, Cripples IT

Probably know that San Fran went dark a few days ago for two hours, affecting 30 to 50 thousand customers. Granted, lack of a live wire is bad for people, but it's also bad for data; the blackout took many big internet sites offline, including 365 Main, Craigslist, Technorati, Yelp, AdBrite, TypePad, and LiveJournal. Imagine the outrage; not only was I prevented from blogging, but my non-stop feed to the free section of Craigslist wasn't working!

Power outrages are increasingly common; Pakistan and India have daily cuts, and the whole island of Jamaica regularly loses power. What is most unusual is that strom shortages are appearing in the developed world as well. For example, Barcelona went dark (350,000 without power), and the St. Louis Arch went dead on Sunday, trapping dozens of tourists.

Power outages are caused by various factors including load, aging infrastructure, and chaotic mishap, and cities are fraught with all of these items. Bottom line for IT is that urban areas are no place for your data to grow up in; get it out. The Land of Fire and Ice might be a good try; barring that, at least run your operation efficiently, ala Google.::SFGate

Friday, July 27, 2007

Facts and Fallacies on Black Google

I can see from my hit counter that Black Google is making the rounds again. It's interesting; this is the third time the Black Google wave has crashed over the world. Since some of the facts get tangled every time, I thought I would do a little Q&A on the topic.

Q: Are the calculations in the original post correct?
A: Yes, the calculations are correct, Black Google would save 750 MWh a year. Thousands of people have reviewed the calculations - they are right.

Q: But some sites are reporting a 3000 MWh savings...
A: The original calculations were not correct because I assumed that the power savings was for every monitor, and in fact this is not true. This is a viral mistruth, probably caused by the fact that the original link still has '3000' in it. 750 is the number.

Q: You are talking about the LCD monitors right? They have a backlight that is always on, and use the same amount of energy or even a little more to show black. You have to exclude them from the calculations.
A: That is correct, using Black Google makes little or no difference when you have a LCD monitor. This was set straight almost immediately, but there are still tons of postings and comments on this issue. It's has been common knowledge for months. The 750MWh number reflects this fact; Black Google still saves energy.

Q: So, in a year or two the whole thing will be pointless because CRTs are going away.
A: They are being replaced, but as of 2006 25% of all the monitors in the world are still CRTs, and that number goes up for China (50 percent) and South America (75 percent). Also, there are new technologies such as plasma and OLED where white costs money - these technologies are on the rise so we will be right back in the same boat. And there are handheld devices as well, battery operated where power is a bigger deal.

Q: So, 750MWh is the right number?
A: No, it's higher now! Pablo Paster did some recent calculations and the savings is up to a conservative 1500 MWh. The reason is that Google is getting more traffic, and that he counted page hits while I just counted queries.

Q: So Google took your advice and created Blackle? Good for them!
A: No, Blackle is an independent site runs by HeapMedia. There are quite a few out there now, including Earthle, Greygle, GreenerGle, one at blogspot, Ninja, Trek Black, Spanish Black Google, and German Black Google. But my all time favorite is the guy who made the mega site of bible studies based on a misspelling of one of these engines.

Q: It hurts my eyes to use Black Google - white on black is the most natural.
A: The white on black palette was probably just adopted from the paper printing world, and there have been several studies (many from the 80s) on what the best color scheme is. I've heard white on grey, green on yellow, white on green, green on black, amber on black, and white on black. I think the jury is still out.

Q: Why doesn't every big site adopt a black blackground - MSN, Yahoo, Amazon, etc.?
A: Why doesn't every big site do this?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On Fox Tonight

Catch me on Fox 25 News (Boston) tonight at 10pm talking about carbon offsets. Here's a primer to get you going:

Want Some Carbon With That?

You Want Carbon?

Built on Guilt - Carbon Offsets

(Update - Link Here.)

Monday, July 23, 2007


Ecoiron dropped under 3,000 on Technorati today, two months after dropping under 5,000. Thanks guys, you're the best, I'll keep cranking it out. And if you are interested in writing for ecoIron, drop me a line.

Economics of Virtualization May Be "Off Planet"

With the promise of reduced costs and increased efficiency, the virtualization rage continues in the techno-sphere. The basic premise of virtualization is to make one server do the work of many; this increases utilization, and hence requires less servers. Fewer servers mean less power, which in turn means less CO2, thus saving the planet. Simple.

But now there's a counterpoint; "yes, you have fewer servers in a virtualized environment, but each one of those servers is more heavily utilized, and because they are doing more work their power consumption goes up. The net gain is zero." Can that be? When I interviewed Foedus, they claimed one could get up to a 20 to 1 reduction in hardware using virtualization; it's hard to believe that doesn't more than make up for the extra power. Quocirca did their own analysis and came to the same conclusion. On the other hand, when I interviewed John Engates of Rackspace, he agreed that the power to run the heavier-laden box beats the costs of buying it - the juice beats the iron.

There's got to be missing pieces of the puzzle here - perhaps not all servers virtualize well, or we need to take into account the specific kinds of applications being served. And other items, such as ambient temperature and facility design, clearly make a big difference as well. The takeaway is that, like most things, establishing what power savings you are going to get from an infrastructure virtualisation project is not straightforward, but there is a potential for a win-win here - you will not only be saving the planet, but also money. And with the total power costs over the lifetime of a server currently estimated as being in the region of 50 per cent of the hardware costs, self-interest may play as big a part here as enlightened altruism; I'm still for jumping on the calliope.::Quorica :: The Register

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Horde of Hosts : Interview with John Engates, Rackspace

With over 30,000 servers and 12,000 customers, Rackspace is one of the biggest hosting providers in the world. Big companies can be slower to take environmental initiatives - they are aren't running all these boxes off of solar, for example - yet when they do make a move it usually has a bigger, longer lasting impact. TH recently had the 'tunity to interview John Engates, CTO of Rackspace, to see what they were up to.

Hi John, can you explain what Rackspace does?

In its simplest form, we offer managed hosting; this is an offering whereby companies look to outsource their hosting solutions.

Rackspace Managed Hosting delivers enterprise-level managed services to businesses of all sizes. Serving more than 12,000 customers in eight data centers worldwide, Rackspace integrates the industry’s best technologies for each customer need and delivers it as a service via the company’s award-winning Fanatical Support™. Through trusted relationships, Rackspace serves as an extension of its customers’ IT departments, enabling them to focus on their core business.

The average replacement cycle for hardware is two to four years - what is your timespan? Do you have any plans to extend it?

Rackspace replaces hardware as customers order new hardware or as their contract ends and they leave the company. Rackspace does attempt to recycle that gear as long as is reasonably possible. They don’t have a mandatory replacement timeline, so they use it as long as possible.

The average CPU utilization for hosting is absurdly low, often as low as 10 percent... do you have a number the CPU utilization of your equipment? How does this compare to the industry standard?

Don’t have specific numbers, but the nature of Rackspace’s business (production managed hosting services) lends itself to generally higher utilization than typical corporate datacenters.

Do you use virtualization? What if any advantages for the environment do you see in using this technology?

Rackspace does not currently have a virtualization offering, but plans are underway to announce one in Q4 2007.

While virtualization may offer a few advantages to the environment, it is important to point out that in the long run, virtualization does not provide significant environmental advantages. Virtualization does enable IT managers to add more servers (applications) on to fewer machines, reducing the amount of hardware needed and power consumed. Reducing the amount of hardware can certainly cut cost, but virtualization simply allows a server's CPU to run at a higher utilization. And the higher the utilization of a server, the more power it consumes. The additional power cost from virtualized servers will offset any savings created by purchasing less hardware (as hardware is relatively cheap.)

From an environmental perspective, what are the advantages of going with a managed hosting provider? Any disadvantages?

Service providers like Rackspace have the scale and resources to develop their own management tools, and Rackspace creates multiple efficiencies and reduces costs for its customers.

On a related note, Rackspace recently announced a “green” data center. The new facility will provide capacity to add more than 40,000 servers to support Rackspace’s growing customer base; it will help to reduce Rackspace’s dependency on fossil fuel. Slough Heat and Power, which will supply the Rackspace data center with the required power, does not burn coal and instead uses clean wood chips and fiber fuel, both renewable, biomass energy sources. In the process, material is shredded and converted into small, odourless cubes, which are then combusted to generate electricity, hot water and steam for local businesses and residents.

What is your take on free software - do you use it? Overall, do you think the total cost of ownership (TCO) of free software is less or more than commercial packages?

Rackspace uses open source software, but it’s not all free. They do pay maintenance fees for the Linux software they deploy. Even open source software that doesn’t require a maintenance fee is not really “free.” The costs of maintaining a free software environment may be slightly less expensive than the commercial alternative, but there are pluses and minuses to either, so Rackspace always recommends looking at your pool of talent and choosing the software based on who is going to be operating and maintaining it.

Gartner predicts that energy will account for 50 percent of the typical IT budget in the next few years. Do you agree with this number? How does managed hosting/green grid initiatives help to reduce this number?

Rackspace is seeing projections in their datacenter models that tell them that those numbers are not at all unrealistic. Managed Hosting will help reduce the cost when compared to a typical corporate datacenter. Rackspace can negotiate better power arrangements and they have the scale to implement more efficient technologies than most typical IT datacenters would be able to accomplish. Rackspace also has the scale to have people on staff thinking about efficiency on a full time basis. Their participation in Green Grid is an example of their commitment to driving efficiency in the datacenter. Rackspace believes it will improve efficiency and potentially help offsite rising energy costs.

What is the future of managed hosting? Will we see more or less hardware consolidation in the IT industry, and what are the biggest drivers for these changes?

Rackspace sees the future of managed hosting as ‘All IT is hosted,’ meaning more and more companies will need more than just there website hosted. They’ll need solutions like email and internal infrastructure hosted with a provider like Rackspace. Rackspace feels if it is not your core business, if it’s not revenue-generating, then you are wasting time, money and manpower supporting it internally when you can let companies like Rackspace host it better and faster.The biggest drivers for changes like hardware consolidation lie in better technology. Virtualization obviously has its pros with more applications running on fewer servers, but as the servers in general improve, they will be able to run more applications before using virtualization.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Verizon Gets Out of The Copper Business

Copper hit $3.66 a pound today on the COMEX exchange - that's a lot. Copper is heavier than iron, and the weight really adds up quickly. For example, it only takes 146 pre-1982 pennies to make a pound. Yes, that means you can make $2.20/lb. by melting down your pennies. Except, of course, it is explicitly illegal to do so. At current rates, A cubic inch of copper is worth a little over a dollar; a cubic foot is (get this) worth over $2000.

It's not just copper; aluminum, zinc, bronze and stainless steel are all commanding high prices these days. These may seem like novel facts until one more novel fact is added; that is, a lot of public infrastructure is made out of these metals. Enterprising folks are literally ripping off anything that isn't nailed down - bleachers for example. Beer kegs aren't being returned, and some police departments can't get ammunition. Fortune, for all its glory, printed a veritable how-to guide on how to pick and choose the Choice items in publo-sphere. And some big companies, like Verizon, are taking big hits.

Verizon, the telcom provider, is bleeding from every pore; vandals stole over $300,000 in copper from their cell phone towers last year, and that was just in California! In addition, their copper cable network is collapsing, because subscribers are abandoning it in favor of their faster FIOS (fiber optic) network. Maybe that's why Verizon made the decison to kill off their copper infrastructure.

Some malcontents are complaining that they are screwing the customer, because if they don't like the new FIOS service then 'they can't go back to copper lines'. Who? Wha? Guys, when a rogue cuts at 20 foot section out of a trunk cable and sells it for the copper, there's no phone service, and one can hardly expect Verizon to maintain two infrastructures. Scarce resources will require some adaptation; Verizon's new silicon-based FIOS is faster and more resource efficient. And it won't get ripped off either. (follow up - oops, I guess it does get ripped off!) :: CNN

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mike Dell Drives a Hummer - Boo Hoo or Yee Haw?

Last month AutoMotoPortal filled us in on the cars that famous geeks drive. It's interesting, if not surprising, reading. Turns out that Mike Dell drives a Hummer a good deal of the time; let's look at the environmental repercussions of that bit of information, and figure out what to do with it.

Dell has received high eco marks, and much of this credit could easily be attributed to Michael Dell himself; does he get Bonus for his hard work? Thoughts were muddied and confused on the issue, and some kind of comparison was needed. Let's take Mr. Dell, myself, and the "World Citizen" who survives on $2 a day (they are half the world's population by the way). Now, let's overlap these three guys with driving a Hummer, a Prius, and a Bicycle. Here are the results.

Michael Dell
First Thought: couldn't he do with less car?
Second Thought: might be justified (don't billionaires need security personnel?)

Michael Dell
First Thought: that would be a statement!
Second Thought: probably doesn't meet his needs as a global executive.

Michael Dell
First Thought: wow!
Second Thought: is an idiotic waste of Michael Dell's time.

First Thought: what am I doing in this thing?
Second Thought: is one of most absurd decisions I made in my life!

First Thought: I'm sacrificing some leg room, but it gets good mileage.
Second Thought: might be the next car for me.

First Thought: if I don't get killed on the streets of Boston, I'll feel good.
Second Thought: is fairly unrealistic for a busy guy with a family.

World Citizen
First Thought: I hope it makes carrying water from the well ten miles away easier.
Second Thought: is none of my business - who am I to say what a guy living on $2 a day can and cannot do?

World Citizen
First Thought: I hope it makes carrying water from the well ten miles away easier.
Second Thought: is none of my business - who am I to say what a guy living on $2 a day can and cannot do?

World Citizen
First Thought: I hope it makes carrying water from the well ten miles away easier.
Second Thought: is none of my business - who am I to say what a guy living on $2 a day can and cannot do?

Let's tally the results; Dell's vehicle of choice seems bad, but in fact it might be the most practical one of the three for him. The Hummer and bicycle were bad choices for me, but the Prius seemed good. Finally, I felt so bad for the $2 a day guy that I didn't really care what form of transportation they had.

Overall, it seems like practicality, tailored to personal needs and situation wins the day. I challenge the readers; is there a better environmental argument?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Oh The iPhone, Oh The Abuse

Leaders do things that are new - they explore the unknown, turn the world on its head, break up old patterns and ways of doing things. For these reasons, leaders are going to catch shrapnel from all angles. In fact, if you want to locate the leader, it's pretty simple; just find the guy taking the most abuse.

Like Apple and their poor iPhone. Oh the abuse! For starters, they are gouging the customer, selling a $220 item for hundreds more. It's been hacked to run on non-ATT networks, and the eWaste reports are already pouring out of the news-o-sphere. And the tiltable screen, where the picture automatically rotates when you turn it sideways, may already be copyrighted by Sony. We can assume they didn't use a mercury switch to implement that little feature, can't we?

Boo hoo, poor little pome. But let's get down to the the green tacks - fact is, the iPhone will be the last phone you will ever buy. You will not trade it in 18 months. It is unlikely you will drop a $600 phone in the toilet. The iPhone and its kind are going to end the planned obsolescence cell phone cycle. That's why Apple is the leader, and that's why the iPhone is great. :: Gizmodo

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Secret, Efficient Power Supplies From Google

Google, google, google, google - what don't they have a green pinky in these days? The coolio-video above 'strates how they design the custom, super efficient power supplies for their server farms. Google builds its own machines (and has for some time) using a team of hardware engineers expressly dedicated to the task. With the goal of efficiency foremost in mind, it's no surprise they are leading the pack in this area as well; can you leave some for the rest of us please? ::Ubergizmo