What is Green Computing?
Green IT can be defined as the process that focuses on the strategic deployment of operations and information technology to dynamically, sustainably and responsibly align business-oriented goals with green objectives for the entire duration of operations (Mann, Grant and Mann, 2009).
Green IT is also known as green computing. In simple terms it implies eco-friendly IT i.e. Implementing IT solutions and infrastructure efficiently with minimal or no negative impact on the environment and without any wastage. This has led to a revolution in the field of computing technology. It has forced technology firms to come up with several innovative solutions and products aiming at reduction in energy consumption, reduction in E-waste, improved disposal mechanism etc. IT can also play as an enabler for a sustainable environment and society.
Key components of Green Computing
The ultimate objective of Green computing is the environmentally responsible use of computers and related resources. Some of the key components can be identified as
- Energy Efficiency
- Reduced use of resources (Reduce-Reuse-Refurbish-Recycle)
- Green Procurement
The use of ICT brings in enormous operational efficiency. However, it is seen that the IT equipment are used in an extremely inefficient manner, wasting huge amount of energy. An IT system comprises of hardware, software, networks and people. So efficiency has to be built at every layer of the value chain.
It is seen that the desktops are not utilized to their fullest extent when in the power on mode and 50% of the desktop power is wasted. Energy saving options are disabled in as high as 90% of the PCs. Printers utilize more energy than PCs and so power wastage by printers is also more. Often single-sided printing is done by the users resulting in higher power and paper consumption.
IT systems process and store huge amount of data on servers. Hundreds and thousands of such servers constitute data centers consuming several terawatt hours of electricity globally. The number of datacenter servers globally has reached at approximately 30 million in the last decade. The overall electricity requirement for these servers have doubled up between the years 2000 and 2005 (Saha, 2014). Not surprisingly this leads to huge amount of heat generation and carbon emission and leads to huge cost for cooling. Unfortunately these data centers are very often underutilized (12% to 15% of their capacity during working hours).
Interestingly, as per the graph below, it is the PCs and Monitors that contribute most to the CO2 emissions (40%), followed by servers (23%).
The above calls for implementing some best practices on the part of people using these devices. It also makes necessary to innovate energy-efficient equipment that use less energy to deliver same computing power.
Improved Datacenter cooling mechanism can be deployed by restructuring datacenter layouts, efficient rack and server arrangements, raised floors facilitating improved airflows, placing cooling systems at the right place for maximum effect and so on. Various power management policies can be implemented across the organization such as using thin clients instead of desktops, policy to auto-switch off monitors and printers while not in use, using energy efficient lighting in all the facilities and purchase of energy efficient computers (Mann, Grant and Mann, 2009). Some simple steps taken by employees will result in huge benefits. Some of the best practices include using Energy Star labeled products, turning off personal computers when not in use, putting computer in Sleep mode or Hibernate mode (low power state), avoiding screen savers and so on (Mittal and Kaur, 2013)
IT organizations should employ energy usage profiling as a practice. The consumption of energy by various IT components should be measured and monitored and accordingly corrective steps should be taken. Energy usage profile can be implemented for hardware, Operating System and Application software; whereas power consumption when the resource is idle and power consumption when it is being used to its fullest capacity are measured. Low cost tools are available for this purpose. Once the data is available, optimization of hardware and software resources can be done (Patra and Nath, 2014).
Computer virtualization refers to abstraction of computer resources whereas multiple logical computer systems are run on one physical hardware. Also multiple physical devices can be combined into one powerful logical system. With virtualization, where number of hardware components are reduced, it leads to reduced power consumption and reduced cooling requirements. Virtualization also helps in distributing workload among servers efficiently so that the servers are either busy or put in low power state (Patra and Nath, 2014).
Reduced use of resources (Reduce-Reuse-Refurbish-Recycle):
In the context of Green IT and reduced usage of resources, the key terms to refer to are Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-Refurbish. Reducing consumption is an obvious way of savings resources. Adopting best practices like printing of documents that are absolutely necessary and avoiding all unnecessary printing, printing using both sides of the page rather than single side etc. will save electricity as well as paper (Saha, 2014).
As per Mann, Grant and Mann (2009), Recycling is the Oldest trick in the book but still gets overlooked and underutilized as an option by the IT operations team very often. Small steps like recycling the ink cartridges and laser toners by refilling them can be hugely beneficial in the long run. Reuse old hardware and computers as long as they meet the requirements, by upgrading with new peripherals if necessary. Manufacture hardware that have a longer life. Refurbishing computers and servers is also an option where old hardware can be repackaged as new ones by replacing a few parts with new ones as per requirements. As per Saha (2014), many organizations are open to the concept of refurbished hardware instead of going for fresh purchases.
Instead of physical commuting from one place to another, organizations may adopt practices like video conferencing, use of Voice over IP (VoIP) technology etc. It helps in reduction of GHG emission due to travel and reduction in telephony wiring infrastructure by using VoIP technology. It also results in huge cost savings for the organizations related to travel, savings related to office spaces and office infrastructure costs and leads to increased worker satisfaction, improved work efficiency and time optimization.
Businesses should also adhere to green guidelines while making purchasing decisions. E.g. they should register only those suppliers who are aligned with their own green vision. EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) is a procurement tool promoted by Green Electronics Council. It has established a clear set of criteria and guidelines for vendors to design and manufacture green products. Vendors can register their products with EPEAT if they fulfil the criteria. It also helps companies to evaluate and compare computer related products and equipment based on green criteria.
Companies can also define their own green purchasing policy with purpose, scope and procedures. They can employ independent third party agencies to monitor the suppliers (Patra and Nath, 2014). This will also encourage suppliers to go for green manufacturing.
One of the immediate benefits of Green IT is cost saving. Adopting energy efficient measures saves huge amount of money for the organizations and is one of the main drivers for adopting green principles.
Mann, H., Grant, G. and Mann, I. (2009). Green IT – An Implementation Framework. AMCIS 2009 Proceedings. Paper 121 Available at: http://www.aisel.aisnet.org/amcis2009/121 [Accessed 5 Jun. 2016].
Mittal, P. and Kaur, N. (2013). Green Computing – Need and Implementation. International Journal of Advanced Research in Computer Engineering & Technology, 2(3), pp.1200-1203.
Patra, C. and Nath, A. (2014). Green Computing – New Paradigm of Energy Efficiency. International Journal of Advance Research in Computer Science and Management Studies, 2(11), pp.533-542.
Saha, B. (2014). Green Computing. International Journal of Computer Tends and Technology, 14(2), pp.46-50.