In my tenure at Intel, I have had the pleasure of walking into major companies, educational institutes, non-profits, and government agencies to talk technology with many great people.  “How green is this solution” is a topic on many minds lately – no matter which topic of discussion.   Being an engineer by trade and scientist by education, I will typically dive into the details of around each component’s power consumption and the discussion ends with some simple math multiplying a number of units by their thermal numbers.  However, there is so much more to the overall impact, and as I walk in and out of these locations, I am always amazed at the number of larger issues with much larger impacts that are unresolved or overlooked.  Reading the book “[Living Like Ed: a Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life|http://www.randomhouse.com/crown/livinglikeed/index.html]” by Ed Begley Jr.,  inspired me to approach some of these topics, and to similarly classify items by their degree of difficulty to implement – easy changes, not-so-big changes, and big changes.  Additionally, I will belooking at the overall impact that compute model choices can affect.  However, I will leave the topics beyond the realm of compute models to experts such as Ed Begley Jr.

 

Corporate Recycling, it can be an easy change:

Before I dive into any of these subjects, recycling should come as an essential component to every one of these solutions – it should become part of your culture, the stockholders will most likely appreciate the frugality.  If your purchasing new equipment, you need to be thinking about what you can do with the old equipment, sometimes the answer is to donate the equipment to charities, sometimes it needs to be disposed of, but rarely does that require it fill a landfill.  As an example, everywhere that Intel operates, more than 70% of all waste is recycled.  I am not suggesting you need to achieve this overnight, Intel has been working on this since 1971…it is a gradual process.  Start by looking at what the biggest waste items are from your company and get creative – is it finding a use for all those coffee grounds, finding ways to reuse packaging material when shipping your products, or simply implementing recycle bins and growing employee awareness. 

Here is a great video which highlights how Intel practices corporate recycling:

 

Pure power consumption items:

Monitors

I have yet to find a location that I have visited where I cannot find that amongst the rows of office workers, several are still using CRT monitors – and many times they are not even the energy efficient CRTs.  Simply moving these users from CRTs to LCD can have a profound impact on power consumption.  Consider a typical 17” CRT will consume around 80 watts, and a 15” LCD is around 25 watts (these have similar viewing areas).  For any user working behind one of these outdated CRT monitors, we need not discuss any other aspect of power savings at their desk until this is fixed, no compute model savings are looking to give you 55 watts back with such a simple solution.  Added to this are well-known benefits around increased worker productivity when moving from CRT to LCD due to eyestrain reduction, glare, distortions, flicker, and visual search time improvements.  As far as I can see it, switching out these monitors is an easy change, it is in the same vein as moving from incandescent to compact fluorescents light bulbs.  Their are even HVAC efficiency changes when these changes happen on a large enough scale (less heat put off by the monitor equals less cooling needed from the HVAC – and in winter the heating produced by your HVAC system I am going to assume is more efficient than the heat being produced by that CRT).  http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/PUB/LCD_vs_CRT_AH.pdf

 

However, a big change item enabled by the CRT to LCD upgrade comes in the realm of building design.  The distance an employee sits from an LCD is the same as the CRT, however the space needed behind the LCD is far less than that of a CRT – LCD monitors even have direct wall mount options.  This gives space designers the ability to decrease desk depth and develop creative solutions around ergo designs.  This results in more compressed, configurable, and/or productive work environments.  The weight reduction on a given office floor can give some relief to building designers as well (average CRT weights 40-45 lbs, and the similar LCD is 6-8 lbs – multiply this by the number of workers in a building, let say 1000, yields a couple tons removed from a single floor).  Is their a way to utilize the weight and heat to balance locations that are often constrained already, such as your server room?  It’s worth looking into.

 

Telecommuting

The subject of telecommuting in general causes various reactions – from the employer who has witnessed abuse of the telecommuting freedoms to discussions around increased employee focus and higher output, the reaction and debate on this subject will continue, just as it has around anything from solitaire to YouTube and social network use.  Regardless of the outcome of these debates, telecommuting can have an overall world effect on the number of employees on the road to and from the office each day.  Being that most people tend to take a transportation method that is far from efficient, this alone can be a net positive impact.  I have heard some government employees are encouraged to spend 1 day each week working from home (pending their job allows them to do this) simply to reduce the environmental impact.  However, the debate is still out on the efficiencies in power consumption regarding heating and cooling a single residence verses several employees in an office environment, and the infrastructure costs to support more remote verses local employees.  The benefits of mobility in your compute model can definitely benefit the environment – at the least, mobility offers the flexibility to consider various work environments (e.g. what would be greener than a person using a laptop outside using solar power?).

 

Power policies

Often power policies have taken energy efficient configurations and pushed them another 20% beyond what is already seen as good.  When applied down the wire over manageability interfaces such as can be done on an Intel® vPro™ Technology enabled client, they are easy to deploy and quick to update when needed.  You can decide to simply turn off the unused computer, wake it up and update it when needed, and then return it to the low power states.  On the other hand, you can utilize the processing power of that vacant machine to run a distributed compute environment using an IDE redirection operation, further reducing the loads on your data center and switching the watt per calculation onto inexpensive devices.  Isn’t this the whole argument that drove RAID technology – the I in RAID stands for inexpensive, we took inexpensive drives and made redundant copies, much like we can do with the relatively inexpensive computations of these vacant client machines.  

 

Data Center Consolidation via Virtualization, DC Racks, and other things inside those glass rooms…

If no one has looked into this area yet at your organization, it may be time to visit your local datacenter and see what is going on.  Chances are the ladies and gentlemen running your datacenter are already plugged into these topics, as they are probably spending a large budget every year just to keep those servers that you never see humming along, money well spent on temperature and climate control, money spent on power consumption, etc.  Lets face it, unless you are someone who understands the difference between 1U, 2U, and 4U and knows what happens when the halon system is engaged, then you should get your teams that do know about such things looking at The Server Room.   There are many fantastic advances in the last few years that can drastically decrease the power consumption, reduce the cooling needs, and increase the manageability and reliability of your server room. 

 

Compute Model Debates:

The reason I call this section “debate” is that various individuals, corporations, analysts, and product vendors spend much time debating about which of these is greener.  The argument usually stays within the simple math as I described before, but the real answer I believe should extend into the larger, holistic, picture.  All of these solutions fit into the big changes category, as they require establishments to modify the way they operate, often involving the acquisition of new equipment and software, and typically requiring end-users to receive some training to function productively in these environments.  For more information on these compute models you should read the presentation at: Compute Models Explained 

 

Fixed Location: Terminal Services, Virtual Hosted Desktops, Blade PCs, and Web-Based Apps

I am grouping all of the compute models that move large amounts of computation from clients and place them on server(s), as they all have a very similar green impact with slight nuances related to each one.  Often this group of computing wins out quickly with simple math:

Current:      20 client computers running at X watts + server running at Y watts

Thin-client:      20 thin-client computers running at almost no watts + server running at Y watts

This always looks great, and why not, you are reducing the wattage on the item that is being multiplied.  Too good to be true?  This does not account for several key items with these calculations.  The scenario does not look at how many clients the one server handled before and after the switch.  The change pushes more computing demands on the server, and reduces the demands on the clients.  In the current scenario, the server may have been handling very limited calculations, and could have stretched to thousands of clients.  Anyone who has priced servers and supported them knows that the cost per calculation that you pay on a server is far greater than the cost per calculation on a client.  Servers require redundancy, are often located in raised floor climate and temperature controlled environments, typically are allowed to operate at up to 50% capacity before more are added to the mix, are supported by disk arrays which are also climate controlled and redundant, have built in fans with redundant fans, built in power supplies with redundant power supplies…  All of this is to make sure that you, the end user, never experiences downtime.  On the other hand, your desktop or mobile client is built with the end user in mind, it can often handle limited shocks, a wide range of temperatures, humidity, and electro-magnetic interference.  However, it does not have dedicated employees supporting it as the server does, and does not require a special room.  I have yet to hear a client discussion where we talk about five or six 9’s of uptime – client computers simply reboot much more often. 

The real equation should read something like the following:

Current:      2000 client computers running at X watts + server running at Y watts

+ server room HVAC

Thin-client:      2000 thin-client computers running at almost no watts + 200 servers at Y watts

+ server room HVAC expanded to support 199 more servers

Is this a net wash, increase, or reduction – that depends on how constrained your datacenter already is, what part of the world you are located in (do you have some glaciers nearby), and several other factors.  I am not saying it is not always a net reduction of power, but the equations used are often over simplified, they have to take a holistically approach to each environment to determine the true merits.

 

Off Network Options: Distributed, Rich Client, Virtual Containers, Application Virtualization and Streaming

The second group I am going to split my debate into is the group that supports mobility and retains computation on clients.  Many of these models support moving computations between the server and client as dictated by policies and system capabilities.  However, in general each of these models enables the server component to scale to a much larger number of clients, and when reaching server capacity can use policies to turn up client compute loads.  The same calculations apply in these environments where you include HVAC costs for the increased server demands.  However, the numbers of servers increased in these scenarios are much smaller.  Don’t just take my word for it, follow this linkto a study done by Fraunhofer Institute 

 

Conclusion:

No step is too small…changing behaviors, deciding which solutions are right for you, and reaping the benefits of growing greener is a gradual process, one for which we all should strive.  With each option we need to be looking at what the larger impacts are – what does it mean to productivity, security, manageability, and is now the right time to gain adoption for this change?