Showing posts with label Green Computing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Green Computing. Show all posts

November 27, 2011

Running IT as an Ecosystem

The New York Times (27 November 2011) has an interesting article under "bright ideas" called Turn on the Server. It's Cold Outside.
The idea in the age of cloud and distributed computing, where physical location of infrastructure is besides the point, is to place (racks of) servers in people's homes to warm them from the cold.
The idea is really pretty cool and quite intuitive: Rather than use expensive HVAC systems to cool the environment where servers heat up and are housed, instead we can use the heat-generating servers to warm cold houses and save money and resources on buying and running furnaces to heat them.
While some may criticize this idea on security implications--since the servers need to be secured--I think you can easily counter that such a strategy under the right security conditions (some of which are identified in the article--encrypting the data, alarming the racks, and so on) could actually add a level of security by distributing your infrastructure thereby making it less prone to physical disruption by natural disaster or physical attack.
In fact, the whole movement towards consolidation of data centers, should be reevaluated based on such security implications. Would you rather have a primary and backup data center that can be taken out by a targeted missile or other attack for example, or more distributed data centers that can more easily recover. In fact, the move to cloud computing with data housed sort of everywhere and anywhere globally offers the possibility of just such protection and is in a sense the polar opposite of data center consolidation--two opposing tracks, currently being pursued simultaneously.
One major drawback to the idea of distributing servers and using them to heat homes--while offering cost-saings in term of HVAC, it would be very expensive in terms of maintaining those servers at all the homes they reside in.
In general, while it's not practical to house government data servers in people's homes, we can learn to run our data centers more environmentally friendly way. For example, the article mentions that Europe is using centralized "district heating" whereby more centralized data center heat is distributed by insulated pipes to neighboring homes and businesses, rather than actually locating the servers in the homes.
Of course, if you can't heat your homes with data servers, there is another option that gets you away from having to cool down all those hot servers, and that is to locate them in places with cooler year-round temperatures and using the areas natural air temperature for climate control. So if you can't bring the servers to heat the homes, you can at least house them in cold climates to be cooled naturally. Either way, there is the potential to increase our green footprint and cost-savings.
Running information technology operations with a greater view toward environmental impact and seeing IT in terms of the larger ecosystem that it operates in, necessitates a careful balancing of the mission needs for IT, security, manageability, and recovery as well as potential benefits for greater energy independence, environmental sustainability, and cost savings, and is the type of innovative bigger picture thinking that we can benefit from to break the cycle of inertia and inefficiency that too often confronts us.
(Source Photo: here)

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March 21, 2008

Telework and Enterprise Architecture

Telecommuting, e-commuting, e-work, telework, working at home (WAH), or working from home (WFH) is a work arrangement in which employees enjoy limited flexibility in working location and hours. In other words, the daily commute to a central place of work is replaced by telecommunication links. Many work from home, while others, occasionally also referred to as nomad workers or web commuters, use mobile telecommunications technology to work from coffee shops or myriad other locations. Telework is a broader term, referring to substituting telecommunications for any form of work-related travel, thereby eliminating the distance restrictions of telecommuting. (Wikipedia)

Is telecommuting a good architecture decision or not?

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), 28 February 2008, reports that “Some Companies Rethink The Telecommuting Trend.”

“A few big promoters of home-based and mobile-office work arrangements, including AT&T, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and parts of the federal government, have called some home-based workers back to the office.”

Why?

  1. Consolidation of operations—organizations are centralizing operational functions and bringing people back in, believing that telecommuting is unnecessary. For example, “Hewlett-Packard, the company that invented flextime, called a significant number of home-office information-technology workers back to the office in 2006, during a consolidation of its 85 data centers.”
  2. Teamwork—belief that “teamwork improves when people work face-to-face” and through “impromptu dialogues, collaboration, and mentoring.”

Another reason not cited by the WSJ is continued management apprehension about losing control. Management fears that workers are either not working as productively or doing what they want them to do when they are out of sight. It’s a trust issue, and unfortunately, some employees who misuse telework programs ruin it for others who are diligent and honest putting in their hours and doing their work.

Despite these issues with telework, “U.S. corporate employees working full time from home are still rising, gaining 30% since 2005 to 2.44 million in 2007, says Ray Boggs, a research vice president with IDC.”

What are some benefits of telework programs?

  1. Cost savings—including corporate office space, furniture, equipment, and utilities.
  2. Recruiting and retaining employees—providing telework options is a benefit for workers and can aid in recruiting and retention—it can save employees money on transportation and work wardrobe, enable more flexible hours, and can provide accommodation to enable some people who could not get to a regular office setting (due to childcare or eldercare responsibilities, disabilities, or other personal situations) the opportunity to be productive human beings.
  3. Flexible work force—“teleworkers are easy to fire and relocate…because they’re not visible.”
  4. Greener environment—telework saves people from having to commute to work and reduces pollution from their vehicles.
  5. Continuity of operations—having an offsite workforce helps protect an organization continue operating even when disasters (natural, accidental, or malicious) strikes the corporate offices.

Ways for teleworkers to keep working from home: “perform well…increase your visibility…make an effort to collaborate.”

For federal employees, “Section 630(a) of Public Law 105-277 (Flexiplace Work Telecommuting Programs) authorized certain Executive agencies to spend a minimum of $50,000 for fiscal year 1999, and each fiscal year thereafter, to establish and carry out a flexiplace work telecommuting program.” (www.opm.gov)

As an enterprise architect, I firmly believe that we need to plan and implement robust telework programs—that the benefits outweigh the costs. The human capital perspective that I espouse for enterprise architecture demands that we build in programs, such as teleworking, that create a more flexible and diverse workforce and provide cost savings and other positive impacts. Of course, telework programs and teleworkers need to be structured and managed so that goals are understood and met, and collaboration and teamwork is not impeded.


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February 17, 2008

Green IT and Enterprise Architecture

Green computing is the study and practice of using computing resources efficiently [from an environmental and energy perspective]. Typically, technological systems or computing products that incorporate green computing principles take into account the so-called triple bottom line of economic viability, social responsibility, and environmental impact. This differs somewhat from traditional or standard business practices that focus mainly on the economic viability of a computing solution. These focuses are similar to those of green chemistry; reduction of the use of hazardous materials such as lead at the manufacturing stage, maximized energy efficiency during the product's term of use, and recyclability or biodegradability of both a defunct product and of any factory waste. A typical green computing solution attempts to address some or all of these factors by implementing environmentally friendly products in an efficient system. (Wikipedia)

ComputerWorld, 4 February 2008, reports on “Tips for a Leaner, Greener Desktop: Energy efficiency isn’t just for the data center.”

“Although data centers may use more power per square foot, as a percentage of total power consumption, office equipment is the big kahuna...if you look at overall power consumption, you’re seeing almost double for computers and monitors than for data centers.”

“There were an estimated 900 million desktops in use worldwide in 2006…if all of that equipment met the 2007 Energy Star [a voluntary labeling program] 4.0 specification , power consumption would be 27% lower than it would be under 2006 guidelines.”

Here are a number of ways to architect green:

  • Power management software—software like NightWatchman or LANDesk puts desktop computers and monitors “into power saving mode after a period of inactivity, overriding any personal setting….another product SMSWakeUp can ‘wake up’ those machines to deliver patches and updates after-hours and then shut them down again when the process is complete.”
  • LCD monitors—“dump those CRTS replacing older computers and peripherals with Energy Star-rated equipment can save energy and space, and the decreased power consumption can significantly reduce the need for cooling in office areas. Start with CRT displays. ‘The biggest offenders are the monitors.’”
  • Thin clients—“managed thin clients use 30% less energy than nonmanaged PCs...thin clients use less power and space, since they have no disk drives or fans, and the Windows session and applications run on the server.”
  • Printing effectively—“Hewlett Packard Co, claims that the energy efficiency of its printers improve 7% to 15% with each new generation. Therefore, replacing older units with new, Energy Star-labeled models can cut costs by as much as 25%...printers are also getting smarter about when to go into low-power mode.” Another method to save energy and paper is to configure printers for duplex mode.

Green IT is good for enterprises and good for the planet. Enterprise architects can help make a difference with green IT solutions for their organizations.


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February 9, 2008

The Paperless Society and Enterprise Architecture

For years, we’ve all heard the promise that technology will soon make us a paperless society—but it hasn’t!

In the book, Sacred Cows Make The Best Burgers, by Kriegel and Brandt, the authors state that “most people’s desks look like they’ve been hit by a paper avalanche.”

Have things gotten better or worse?

Kriegel and Brandt state that between 1983 and about 1996, “shipments of paper actually increased by 51%.

Further, they state that “a vice president of a major telecommunications company showed us a study that...on average, people got over 90 hours’ worth of “stuff” to read each week! And only 20 percent of that was electronic...the same study showed that despite all the advancements in information technology, the amount of paper received today had not been reduced from ten years ago.”

Do we need all this paper?

Absolutely not. “50 percent of a company’s paperwork could be eliminated without the slightest disruption to business.”

In fact, the authors recount a telling story about how a courageous manager and his/her employees slowly eliminated parts of a costly, time-consuming detailed 10 column monthly report they put together for the management committee, by first eliminating some columns and then more and more until finally they produced only 4 key columns quarterly. Instead of the management committee complaining, no one even noticed anything was missing (the columns or later the monthly report), until after a number of months, the CEO congratulated them on their good work with the new clear and simple quarterly report.

What has the government done to reduce paperwork?

  • Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, “one of the principal requirements of the PRA is that organizations must have OMB approval before collecting information from the public (such as forms, general questionnaires, surveys, instructions, and other types of collections).” (http://www.usa.gov/webcontent/reqs_bestpractices/laws_regs/paperwork_reduction.shtml)

What should we do in our organizations to reduce the paperwork?

According to Kriegel and Brandt, if paperwork doesn’t “add value to the customer, increase productivity, or improve morale,” then it should be eliminated.

From a User-centric EA perspective, we need to ask our users and stakeholders if they really need or want the paperwork we’re giving them, and if not we need to update our business processes and enable technology solutions to eliminate the legacy paper-based solutions. To some extent this is occurring already, in other cases, it is not. The more we become an information-based society, the more we need and crave information and some people don’t trust the technology or simply want a hard-copy to read or for their records. Paper is not a bad thing. It is a tried and true method of recordkeeping and communication, but when we have so much that we cannot even keep up with it, then it’s definitely time to reevaluate our true needs and go a little easier on our environment. Why chop down all those trees, for reports, proposals, print-outs, and projections that often just end up, unread in the round file (i.e. the garbage) anyway?


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