Green 3: Andy Lawrence of 451

Continuing my assessment of analysts I haven’t heard before: here at the Green IT Expo is Andy Lawrence of 451 Group, talking “Green Datacentres to Green Clouds”. Andy looks after data centre disruptive technologies, and eco-efficient IT, for 451. It’s the first time, again, that I’ve heard 451 directly.

He promises an overview including a European Union Framework project called Optimis. I’ve been involved in EU research in the past, didn’t know about this one: that’ll be interesting.

Here’s a sort-of hierarchy of energy efficiency for the data centre. At the base, five years’ work on reducing the power use of datacentre infrastructure: PUE, best practices, EU Code of Conduct. One tier up: work on lower power chips, efficient drives, virtualisation, power management etc. Above that again, the ability to look holistically at an application or service: for example, what’s the eco-impact of choosing 1 second response rather than 1.5 seconds?

So: Cloud. Cloud should be more eco-efficient and it’s often asserted to be so. But is it? 451 believes the assumptions are largely unproven. [Private] cloud and virtualisation, as a matter of observation, seems – so Lawrence says – to show under-utilisation so some of the eco gains are not realised..

We’re about to see another measurement framework. Here, there are four axes: economic, compliance, CSR (corporate social responsibility), operational effectiveness. Again, take a holistic look: e.g. what’s the energy cost of insisting backups are permanently online rather than powered-down (on tape, for example).

How do you measure resource efficiency? There are some proxy metrics; there are  direct measures (i.e. actual measurements, not estimates: how much carbon now); and metrics (e.g. PUE). They are “good; but be careful: unreliable for business decisions”. We’re promised a tour of some cross-industry initiatives, and also a few highlights from individual companies.

The EU’s Optimis project provides a list for assessment: trust, risk, eco-efficiency, cost (TREC). The aim is to create an architectural framework that looks at all of these, and a development toolkit. Lawrence asserts the need for multiple metrics: “a lone metric never works”. The hard stuff is the effort to associate carbon with a cloud service, especially where the actual data are locked up in the provider’s data centre and they may well have no interest in providing the detailed data to feed into the models. It is, at the least, a hard problem.

Lawrence outlines an alternative proxy approach. It still relies on cloud providers doing the sums; but they may well already be gathering the data, and may well be more willing to deliver a category-based per-hour or per-VM footprint  (kWh and carbon per VM hour, perhaps). Its accuracy needs to be similar to that of billing, neither much more nor much less.

This presentation has given me an incentive to revisit what I know of 451 Group: perhaps the most encouraging aspect was Andy Lawrence’s willingness to identify, and review, academic/industrial research projects which are easily overlooked by an insight market which tends to look only at vendors’ own development pipelines. It admits that development of real, workable methodologies is some time away: Optimis, like all EU Framework projects, is pre-competitive research. But while the project itself may not deliver the ultimate solution, the ideas it generates will certainly inform future metrics and tools.

• The 451 Group and The Uptime Institute
• Optimis EU project: Optimized Infrastructure Services
• EU GAMES: Green Active Management of Energy in IT Service centres (similar, for high performance computing)
• (These projects are within the EU’s 7th Framework Project; the CORDIS database holds information on these and all projects)

Related posts:
A Gartner perspective on Green IT
Green IT; encountering Connection Research

Green IT; encountering Connection Research

Connection Research is an Australian insight service focussing on sustainability issues. I know of them – they’re in the InformationSpan database – but this encounter at the Green IT event is the first chance I’ve had to hear from a key person; in this case, William Ehmcke the CEO. It’s another META Group spin-off company; William, it appears, led META in Asia-Pacific until it was acquired by Gartner in 2004.

This is an as-it-goes blog, plus a bit of later tidying up.

Connection reckons to work from real data, determining metrics and developing benchmarks. Their areas are: communities; green IT; the built environment; and carbon/compliance (Australia is about to introduce carbon pricing, around A$23/ton).

Connection also recognises “green fatigue” and “greenwash”; but broader issues are gaining prominence for PR; from regulation; or for financial reasons (direct, or indirect because of brand and reputation issues). There’s a perfect storm of issues, because the rise of “big data” is increasing demand; transparency is being demanded; energy security is a rising issue (in Australia as in the USA, though not so much in the UK); and simple cost.

Connection has helped to develop an ICT Sustainability framework and index, with academic partners, across: equipment lifecycle; end user computing; enterprise & data centre; and IT as a low-C enabler. Essentially, in this, is the same distinction as in Simon Mingay’s presentation: doing IT green, and enabling green business by IT. He recognises Bring Your Own plus mobility as a sustainability strategy – it creates fundamental savings and helps reduce the need for permanent facilities on the current scale..

The Fujitsu Global ICT Sustainability report, published Sept 2011, surveyed 80 different areas. It appears that results on the IT Sustainability Index (ITSx; see Connection’s website for more information) have generally regressed recently, and this isn’t a drag effect from emerging economies in China and India. Within the detail, it’s interesting that Government is ahead of the across-sector average index. Surprisingly, brand reputation is driving some “dirty” industry (e.g. mining) up the stack. Nationally, Canada is the leader and the UK second; regulation has been driving this market; and few markets excel in all the sectors.

Ehmcke highlights the major slip in the ITSx for Professional Services; odd, because these industries have only buildings, people and intellectual property. They ought to be easily able to excel; but they don’t, and have slipped relative to 2010 as has, more understandably, manufacturing.

In response to a question: an interesting national measure is GDP value per unit of carbon emission, where Japan leads the way (though not included in the Connection stats; the survey wasn’t done because of the tsunami). Ask how much carbon your enterprise uses per $million of revenue … the use and development of effective metrics is falling back and, without data, action is impossible. Over half the CIOs surveyed have no idea about their IT power consumption, for example.

In response to another question: a point was made that sustainability, in many corporations, is handed to Risk Management (even where there’s a Sustainability Officer), because it’s seen as being about compliance and a holistic view isn’t taken.

A couple more questions, and then a quick outline of the Foundation for IT Sustainability, and the new Green IT Fundamentals course based on licensed training material from Connection, linked to CompTIA, and supported by the Global e.Sustainability Initiative. A useful presentation; the emergence of training, metrics, and certifications is important and the topic was expanded in a presentation from the BCS which I haven’t blogged.

• Connection Research
• ICT Sustainability: Global Benchmark Report Reveals a Lack of Visibility of the ICT Energy Bill Has Delayed Success, Fujitsu Press Release, 21 Sept 2011: headline summary, with link to obtain a copy of the full report
• Foundation for IT Sustainability (FFITS)
• Global e.Sustainability Initiative (GESI)

Related posts:
A Gartner perspective on Green IT
• Green 3: Andy Lawrence of 451

A Gartner perspective on Green IT

I’m at Central Hall, Westminster – home territory for a Methodist! I’m here for an event and expo on Green IT; waiting for the keynote from Simon Mingay of Gartner. There’s connectivity, so this blog will get periodically updated. Links, as always, will get added later; probably tomorrow.

“What happened to the Green in Green IT”? Both aspects: “Greening of IT” and “Greening with IT”. Mingay’s perspective: Green isn’t the primary agenda; it’s always been about cost, and about saving resources (particularly energy); but the aims coincide. ICT brings together the business information to achieve the targets.

1 – IT organisations have to engage, don’t wait for “the business” to come to you.
2 – IT must innovate, as part of the enterprise’s wider innovation agenda
3 – investment in IT systems must connect to the business’s value generating aspects, not just the “corporate and social responsibility” (CSR) agenda; although CSR is good for profit, this issue goes further.

Some organisations are slipping backwards, believing they’ve ticked the box – this ties up with a later data-driven observation from William Ehmcke of Connection Research. Energy management is a new core competency; demand and prices are both increasing and the resulting pressure on costs is unsustainable. Mingay quotes Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline: “if we don’t do something about it, we’ll be out of the game”. Tactical improvement is not enough!

Mingay highlights various aspects of the enterprise world: corporate initiatives (e.g. Unilever Sustainable Living); vendor acquisitions and partnerships; enhanced regulations (mentioned Scope 3 and see ISO 50000; see Links, below). The focus is moving beyond compliance to a “resource perspective on the organisation”, designed in, continuous (not a once-a-year report), and including the whole supply chain: which isn’t easy!

Gartner offer a Strategic Planning Assumption – one of the tenets which shape their research: “By 2015, sustainability will be an economy-wide, top-five priority for major Western European and North American CEOs.” Though as a colleague at the event commented, this doesn’t identify which current top-five issue will give way to it!

Gartner offer three frameworks to assess:

  • sustainability maturity: the more mature the performance, the higher the demand for information enablement
  • sustainability value, in five domains varying from Enabling to Contributing (e.g. new business models, new products/services), linked to the run/grow/transform model, with separate scales for private and public sectors;
  • solution domans for sustainable business systems: from compliance (low strategic priority) to growth, and from hindsight to foresight, segmented into (a) compliance, risk and governance; (b) enterprise efficiency; and (c) brand/reputation.

Building management is an obvious area where ICT can correlate and analyse the data from environmental monitoring and control, and deliver cost and eco benefit. Mingay isn’t the first to highlighted the opportunities for FM and ICT to work together; we know about this one from a Leading Edge Forum Study Tour in, I think, 2007.

And guess what, there’s a Sustainability Hype Cycle … the key point is the very large number of technologies mapped on it. Energy-efficient IT is mainstream (“mostly”), he says. But sustainable IT is still stuck in a niche, considering aspects such as toxics and e-waste and pigeon-holed with these issues. Supply chain issues, and systemic energy efficiency (middleware, network, application) are at present still stuck in “academia”, he says – what this means is that the fundamental research on how to identify, measure and model these issues is still being done.

Three stages: optimisation (current); innovation (starting – lots of “adopted innovation” which isn’t really new, and not yet seeing attitude changes especially towards compromise on performance and availability); paradigm change (rare, as yet, but the shift to Cloud has the potential to be one). Examples: data centre infrastructure management (DCIM), treating the whole data centre as a system, with PUE modelling, active power management and so on. Gartner are bringing this topic into their Data Centre and Infrastructure/Operations events. He offered some perspectives on emerging DC design trends, in a modular “build small, build often” approach. There is a list of “ten things to think of next” – starting with measurement! The two key optimisation parameters are space, and compute power per kWh, and sustainability governance is essential for progress (with IT fully engaged).

If you think you’re done on Green IT, you haven’t understood the issues!

• Sustainable Living Plan, from Unilever, aims to” develop new ways of doing business which will increase the social benefits from Unilever’s activities while at the same time reducing our environmental impacts”
• There’s information on the ISO 50000 family of standards on the ISO Helpline (and in many other places!)
• Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Value Chain Accounting and Reporting Standard, also known as Scope 3, from the World Resources Institute
• Hype Cycle for Sustainability and Green IT, 2011, Gartner, 28 Jul 2011 (available to subscribers only; if this link doesn’t work, search for document G00214739)

Related posts:
• Green IT; encountering Connection Research
• Green 3: Andy Lawrence of 451