Taking the Grey out of Green
You Can’t Manage What You Can’t MeasureWith all the hype in the media today it is difficult to weed through the noise to determine what individual steps we can take to shift our global community to more sustainable models. That is the what. Equally confusing is identifying where one can have the most impact with the least disruption, risk and cost. And last, how can we do it.If we assume that going “Green” is an individual choice and business choice by extension, then there is of course a need for education as most of us have grown up not really thinking about the broader impacts of our daily activities. Now that globalization is in full swing on many fronts, ecologic considerations can more easily become just another set of columns in the spreadsheet. After all, accounting for the long-term costs of environmental degradation through poor resource management is fairly straightforward. The challenge to date is that without standardized measures for these costs, an unacceptably high degree of subjective valuation exists.Now if you agree with the majority of the global scientific community that global climate change is the preeminent threat to global stability and quality of life, let us consider energy and the emissions that correlate. Considering that energy generation in the form of electricity (the wall outlet type) is far and away the number one contributor of green house gasses, close to double that of automobiles. What would you do with the ability to measure, monitor and control how energy is used in real time? What if it were easy to do?This is an important question you should be asking yourself today. In fact, you can already do this today via open standards like SNMP. Some savvy data center managers do it today through IP-addressable power strips (like the surge protector in your home but with a network connection). Others do it for certain classes of IT infrastructure like servers using vendor operating systems. The challenge with both these approaches is the high degree of customization required for protocol conversion and the limiting nature of having infrastructure tied to operating systems (proprietary code leads to “silo’s”).For those who don’t have the time to tackle elaborate management frameworks (often because our day job prohibits it) there has been no simple, ubiquitous, open way of tackling energy management across a range of infrastructure (IT and facilities).What if you had a simple way to do it that was free and able to run on existing infrastructure in the same network management framework you use today? What would you do with it?To get started you might look at the following steps:• How much energy is being used related to the IT assets in your business? • Where in the world is this energy being used?• What type of energy are you using or said another way, how is it generated?• What activities, processes and/or business functions does this energy support?• How would you define and apply energy efficiency to these functions?• How would you monitor and manage it?If you’re in a tech field, hopefully you see the professional development opportunities of becoming the energy manager for a significant portion of your business. We do, especially considering we estimate Cisco can save ~20% on energy the first year if we could deploy an energy management solution that could shutdown or “snooze” anything that can hold an agent. In our case, that would roughly equate to a $30M dollar savings per annum.A word of warning, you might be branded as the mr or msgreen at yourorganization(.com) if you were to take energy on board as a service you manage.Would love to hear your thoughts and thanks for reading.
Does Going Green Reduce Energy Use?
Well- sort of.Had an interesting”Green” data center discussion at a conference this week that addressed some nuance on the developing taxonomy of energy efficiency in IT.So- to pose a specific question:Will adopting energy efficient solutions from best of breed partners and vendors reduce the total amount of energy your business will use as it grows? The short answer is no, at least not if your business is growing.Here is the thing, energy usage basically mirrors productivity. Unsurprisingly, countries with the highest GDP also use the most energy. This directly translates into our business operations. Whether you’re a company that scales through adding more headcount or by adding more compute and multimedia per headcount, you are using more total energy.In data centers, users translate into hardware. The more productive and complex the business becomes, the more complex and energy intensive a data center becomes (typically). So assessing the efficiency of a business’ operations can also translate into energy efficiency. I stress the word”can” here as we often don’t have resources invested in managing the translation between the two. We have a very large retail customer who has translated it very well.What an efficiency push starting in the Data Center can bring your business operation are a few things:1) You will reduce wasted Watts (as a proportion of your total Watts)2) You will very likely have a dip in total Watts consumed specific to your infrastructure (think of the virtualization story of being able to remove underutilized equipment)3) You will gain the peripheral and cascading benefits of reduced supporting requirements like white space, cabling, U-space, even whole facilities depending on where you are today4) You will simplify5) You will be able to implement energy monitoring and management as a serviceThis would be about where I see most early adopting customers and partners today. The leaders have already reaped the initial benefits of consolidation, virtualization and new capacity planning methodologies. The next frontier it would appear is tackling energy as a service that is measured, monitored and managed the same way we managed any other IT service today.Building the competency in your IT organization to manage energy efficiency helps save cost by reducing waste, helps you better forecast and manage power capacity and is Green in that it reduces waste. Energy efficiency does not reduce or reverse the total energy a company will use as it grows.That is why low carbon generation of energy is so critical to the long term success of any strategy to combat climate change. Learning how to consume resources most efficiently is a critical first step for us to learn as we face increased volatility and scarcity in energy markets moving forward. Not just energy, water which provides hydro-electric is a resource we need to get better at using and re-using too.So if anyone is telling you they will reduce your total energy use without mentioning that the net savings only lasts until your business growth catches up with it-is only telling you part of the story IMHO.Managing energy, efficiency and productivity are arguably the biggest parts IT can play in Green and is indeed the”low hanging fruit” but it is one of three legs of the stool. The other two being cleaner generation and carbon sequestration.Food for thought.
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