What Cleaning the Office Fridge and Green IT Have in Common

Green IT coverage by Campus Technology has left me confused. I suppose any day now Campus Technology will send me an issue dedicated to IT departments where everyone made it to work on time one day or successfully upgraded to MS Office 2007. I wonder if they can run a special issue featuring IT departments that dutifully clean out the microwave after each use and empty the fridge on Fridays…

Sustainable IT project bubble chart showing effort versus value

Climate Change, Campus Commitments, and IT

Green IT Strategy

What started all of this was my surprisingly strong reaction, intellectually and emotionally, to several Green IT stories in the April issue of Campus Technology. Green IT and sustainability more broadly is not an event. It’s a mindset, a belief system, it means doing the right thing even when no one is looking and sometimes when it might cost you more or be inconvenient.

So it is time to stop handing out praise for Green IT projects like trophies at the end of little league season for low-energy bulbs, reducing paper, and e-waste programs.

The article Lean Green Machines was supposed to offer innovations in sustainability. As I read them I recalled the sustainable IT bubble chart from a 2008 study in EDUCAUSE depicting green practices for their difficulty to implement, impact on goals, and pervasiveness in implementation (size of the bubble).

This made me question why we are focusing on the trailing edge of yesterday’s wave. I absolutely believe we should do whatever we can, whenever we are able, but to position some of the accomplishments as innovations, well that’s what got my undies in a bundle. Much of what was cited ought to be the new normal on each of our campuses and our industry magazines should be offering next generation advancements and benchmarks.

Green IT and Data Centers

Consider the article Taking the Shot which was to offer insights into green data center. Great stories and the schools featured in the article should be proud of their accomplishments. But the better story might have been the real innovations in green data centers. Take the story of Facebook’s data center which has been shared as part of the Open Compute Project.

Facebook’s success comes from employing a new paradigm in data center power and cooling strategies. These strategies and the enabling technologies have produced similar success for Google, Amazon and Yahoo and hundreds of others around the world who are pushing past Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.2 on their way to at or near 1.00 or below.

Power usage effectiveness (PUE) is a measure of how efficiently a computer data center uses its power; specifically, how much of the power is actually used by the computing equipment (in contrast to cooling and other overhead). Wikipedia

Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE)

Judging from the story which never offered the PUE’s or the alternate metric Data Center Efficiency (DCiE)  for each case study, I assume the sites are still near the average of 2.50. To better understand this read Question: When Does 1 = 2.84?

So I suppose in my mind I see Green IT like any other wave in our industry with a bleeding edge, leading edge, mass adoption, and trailing edge. Sure we need to offer encouragement throughout all phases of adoption but we also have a duty to advance the cause and help educate one another on tomorrow’s wave – proactively.

PS – Download the EDUCAUSE green IT report and inventory your site for the green IT initiatives depicted in the bubble chart. How many have your completed, started, planned?

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