I found myself on a Panel discussing ‘green computing’; actually it was part of the Gartner Data Centre event in London as opposed to being a particular decision by me to get involved in Green Computing. I guess that’s a pretty recognisable position for many of us, we know it’s something we should be taking more notice of, but lack the time to get involved enough.
So what did I learn and what makes me want to share it? The big point is there is much, much more to the topic than cutting the energy consumption of the data centre, which is the obvious topic that we all mostly hear about. Let’s start with software;
There are several cars on the market that when you stop in traffic for a period automatically stop the engine, and restart the engine when you touch the accelerator ready to move off again. I have not personally ever seen any software that is at this level for the office PC, yes I know it can and will hibernate, but I am willing to bet that you don’t do this when you get up to get a coffee, or even go to a meeting. It’s not set up to be a fast restart when you touch the keypad so it’s personally time consuming and we don’t do it.
Most of us will comment happily on the ‘death of distance’ and ‘the earth is flat’ but this has no part in the location of a data centre to an area where the production of power is local and green. Well, maybe some are, and that explains why Microsoft, Google and others are building their enormous data centres in Oregon where there is abundant, and cheap, water generated electricity.
The word ‘cheap’ just came up there, and this is generally an acceptable business reason for doing something, so will the shift to MIPs as a service, or even Software as a Service, be able to take advantage of these locations? The answer when examined on the basis of where some of these new data centres are seems to be yes.
And if you use Software as a Service could the local PC behave differently from running its own software in full? Obviously it could, and maybe would, if it was written to do so, but would Enterprises accept these changes? A data centre far away dependant on global communications, software provisioned and supported differently, all seem too big a jump from current practice and throw up some difficult questions on legislation on owning and using data etc.
As the man leading the panel said, ‘there are some inconvenient facts’ that prevent the topic being really explored fully and in detail so its best to pick a quick win like the use of power in the data centre. I found it very interesting, and thought-provoking, when I got to hear the whole topic being addressed rather than just the parts I had previously heard. In my case, made me think it was worth doing some further research on the topic.