While it is true that Green IT is a term that sounds appealing and interesting, when we stop to think about it, a series of questions are quick to jump out at us: What is green IT? What’s green about Information Technology? How can IT influence the green theme? IT again?
For some time, the term Green IT has “painted” the IT world and this is why we find books, forums, and groups on green IT, and a wide variety of green equipment, especially in the ambit of servers and data centers. But, what is Green IT? How does it affect us? Should we deal with this topic? First of all, “Green” is a term used to group multiple concepts, from caring for the environment to matters of corporate social responsibility. Green IT is obviously the same group of concepts applied to our area of information technologies.
On whether we should deal with the topic, the answer is yes, either as a part of normal operations and decisions, or by undertaking specific projects and changes in this regard. Green IT appears in our day to day. And while it is true that it’s an issue that transcends the mining industry, it is precisely in mining where we have the opportunity to be an example and demonstrate leadership in these matters. In addition, it is very good business, not only for saving energy or supplies, but also to avoid acquisitions, developments, licenses and many hours and trips spent on systems and infrastructure that aren’t justified or taken advantage of (or needed).
Change the day to day
In a first instance, Green IT deals with the following topics:
• Consumption of electric power: clearly the data centers, and specifically temperature management (air conditioning) are major items, but we must also consider the consumption of servers, devices and equipment in general (in that order).
• Rational use of inputs and resources: involves a wide range, including paper and also toners and ribbons. For example, today, a good quality computer can last perfectly for 3 years or more, and not 2 as is the period for replacing them in many organizations. In this last case, the environmental savings are quite obvious, 1/3 less equipment (with the entire production, transportation, and installation and waste disposal involved) nor is it hard to imagine the associated cost savings.
• Waste disposal: worrying about a suitable destination for inputs and equipment in condition to be scrapped.
• Selection of equipment and supplies that are friendly to the environment: choosing equipment and supplies that can be recycled, that do not incorporate materials that are hazardous to the environment or that come from recycling. It also means taking notice of the (electric) consumption when selecting equipment.
• Promoting the use of IT: for example, using video conferences to replace a trip is a lot friendlier to the environment (and, as a plus, to the budget).
Do it well and crow over it We know that in engineering what can’t be measured can’t be proved, known, or managed. The first thing, then, is to establish measurement systems and establish current levels. In the case of electric power it is very easy. Usually, data centers have a power distribution central board and computer electric networks have independent circuits. That is, it would be enough to place some meters in these circuits. Likewise, the amount of paper and inputs used is fairly easy to obtain. At the very least, we can resort to the purchases log.
Another important aspect is the cultural change in the users, either to generate good habits in the use of resources, like not leaving the computer on all night or saving data that nobody needs (it’s just that I might need this someday….) or in supporting the decision to not implement certain systems. Finally, adequately inform the organization of the initiatives and progress achieved, and making the entire organization be in charge of this matter.
However, Green IT goes far beyond this, it goes directly to fundamental issues, to questions we are uncomfortable answering and that are usually asked by our CFOs and CEOs, such as matters of efficiency and the utilization of computer resources. It means addressing issues such as:
• Server Virtualization: for a greater utilization of the infrastructure
• On-demand Computing (commonly known as cloud computing): to share and minimize computer resources
• Adequate system architecture: to minimize redundancy and maximize integration and coverage.
• Capacity planning: to define the appropriate amount, considering future demand, of resources at all levels: servers, networks, devices and equipment.
• Program Management: to carry out the initiatives and projects needed (justified).
• Service Management: to measure and understand the actual use of services, including systems.
The recommendation is to create a program for this, simple, but that allows having the right answers to create the “Green” culture, measure progress, and generate the savings and benefits derived from these initiatives. The future in mining seems to point to efficiency, therefore this is a program in the right direction.