Green IT: Are We There Yet?
IT teams have long been trying to economize energy consumption in data centers, but they still have a way to go to reduce their carbon footprints. Here are eight approaches that IT can use to further green initiatives, and reduce energy consumption and costs.
The concept of Green IT originated in 1992, when the US Environmental Protection Agency created its Energy Start program that was focused on reduced energy consumption in home appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners. The program was later extended to computer equipment in 2006.
Since then, green computing has been a persistent topic in data center discussions and initiatives, with mixed results. Computer manufacturers have reduced energy consumption of the devices that they produce when the devices go idle, but manufacturing the devices themselves remains energy inefficient. The Internet of Things (IoT) relies on sensors that can turn themselves off to reduce energy consumption and prolong battery life when they are not in use, but these devices still need to be disposed of at the end of their lifecycles. Meanwhile in data centers, most companies have moved to the cloud and increased computer virtualization, but large swatches of computing resources and storage remain as allocated energy consumers long after usage has ceased.
The result is a mélange of successes and shortfalls that were created by green computing not being an utmost IT priority and executive management not being overly convinced of investment returns.
Despite these mixed results, green computing remains a goal for companies and for technology vendors, and the energy findings of a 2007 Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) study still stand.
In the study, which focused on green data centers, SNIA singled out buildings that host data centers, noting that buildings in the US used 71 percent of all electricity produced and were responsible for 39 percent of carbon emissions. Data centers ranked fifth in energy consumption.
Among the biggest concerns that data center managers had were heat density/cooling (22%), space constraints/growth (19%) and power density (18%). The IT processing load was identified as the largest energy consumer (46%). In response, computer manufacturers reduced energy footprints and consumption, and IT took a stab at economizing energy consumption in data centers.
But there is still work to be done. Here are eight ways that IT can use to further green initiatives:
1. Include green computing in vendor RFP discussions
Talking energy consumption with hardware vendors is a natural fit, but what about software vendors? With the introduction of more low-code and no-code tools, one side effect is more application overhead that is generated by surplus code that a native coder wouldn't include. This forces extra processing and energy consumption. If you’re moving to more low-code and no-code tools, discussing this overhead (and how it can be tuned for efficiency) should be a topic with prospective vendors.
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