Green Computing

Going green

Everyone is now concerned about the environment, thank the gods for that. The idea of being greener in the workplace is well established by now, or so at least we should hope, with the only question remaining as to exactly how this should be accomplished. People have the idea that computing should be able to help.

The answer to that is a yes as well as a no. Computing and computers can help a bit – but the people operating the computers can do more.

The notion of green computing itself is mired in some controversy. In the US in the early 1990s an accreditation called Energy Star was launched, for which monitors could qualify. This had a certain green ‘cred’ about it until everybody finally acknowledged that the legislation was so far behind the technology that it was virtually impossible to get a monitor that was anything other than fully compliant.

There are a number of more interesting and creative ways of greening your systems nowadays. Among the mare virtual PCs, to name but one. It is well known that people use only a small percentage of their brain during their lifetime; the same is often true of their computer and its capabilities.

This is why a number of organisations, particularly in the public sector, now adhere to a ‘virtual’ model – so more than one terminal is powered by the same computer, and while one person is using their keyboard and screen to do the accounts another might be using the same computer but a separate screen and keyboard to design a website.

As long as the system has enough oomph this isn’t a problem. IF, however, the computer does not have enough of the oomph then there is a problem with the virtual machine idea. However, external network drives can be most useful as well in that the PC's own drive only used the absolutely necessary programs and all the storage is done outside the PCs own drive(s).

On the other hand older systems, as long as not energy hogs, can be put to use with an operating system that does not hog resources in the way Windows does. Recycle the PC, put Linux on.

Others go further.

Several councils now share large systems for finance and HR, for example, using high-end systems like Oracle; the idea is that a couple of non-competing organisations set up as separate users with separate accounts on these large systems and log into them from a distance. It doesn’t matter in practical terms that there’s only one physical computer; the two organisations have their own virtual set-up so other than reducing the impact on the environment there’ no real difference bar the lower cost.

We see similar things happening with the virtual desktops, e.g. Windows Live, Google, etc. where one can use software remotely, over the Internet. Whether, however, security-wise this is such a good idea is, obviously a question.

The other question is whether, during the next year or so, this sort of computing is likely to enter the mainstream and move down to the smaller enterprise.

In some cases this has already happened as regards to smaller enterprises. View of them if any now would wish to operate as their own Internet Service Provider. They want a specialist to do this; this is nothing short of renting space on someone else’s computer for a particular task. If a number of software companies have their way, as I already mentioned above, this will come to applications as well, so you’ll buy some time using an accounting system rather than buying the software outright. And you may, in the end, not even have to buy some time, as long as you are prepared to view some ads while you, or a member of your staff does the work.

In the meantime, a lot can be done by way of greening the PC if staff can just be persuaded they don’t need to leave them switched on all night. Using a “Bye, Bye, Standby” kit with your setup is a start. This way no one has to crawl under a desk or such to physically switch off each individual socket or power strip.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008