Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Green CIO Conference

The first Green CIO conference was held at Darling Harbor in Sydney yesterday. There were displays from Wyse, IBM, HP, Ethan Group and Lawson. The ACS President talked about the recently released Australian ICT Carbon Emissions Audit and a Policy Statement for Green ICT. I talked about Reducing Carbon Emissions from the ICT Industry and the ACS Green IT Group. The day ended with the Green CIO Awards.

In keeping with the theme of the event I used the folding bicycle I had bought in Beijing to get to the electric tram stop. Darling Harbor is very good for this as the Sydney Light Rail goes past the convention center on the route to central station. The convention center cloak room accepted the bicycle for the day, without an objection.

In some ways green ICT represents a return to the origins of computing. Worrying about power consumption and materials introduces a discipline which has been lacking from the Moore's Law fueled increases in computing capacity. Wyse were displaying Thin Client units, which are essentially new century versions of last century computer terminals. Other companies were talking about "virtualisation" to run desktop PC applications on timesharing servers. IBM were displaying how to optimize air conditioning load and power in a high capacity data center using blade servers. These are all issues which would be familiar to an IT professional trained in the 1970s, but probably not one from the DOT.COM era.

The conference was useful in discussing what some of the issues with Green ICT are. But there is a lot of work needed to communicate those issues to the IT profession and to their customers. New and innovative products and services are needed. While thin clients and virtualisation are a start there is much more to do.

Some of the complexities were shown by the Wyse range of think client workstations. They had a range of small boxes, which mostly looked the same but ran different software. There are thin thin clients running a minimal operating system which just accept data from a remote application and display it much like an old terminal, all the way up to fat thin clients running applications locally:

  1. Wyse Thin OS: A simple and optimized thin client that is easy to install. The perfect inexpensive ICA/RDP appliance. ...
  2. Windows CE: An efficient and powerful thin client with the right balance of features for environments needing a Windows user interface. ...
  3. Wyse Linux: An adaptable thin client that is scalable from a simple appliance to robust workhorse. ...
  4. Windows XPe: A robust and flexible client built to run the most demanding local applications including video and Java. ...
Adapted from: Wyse Thin Clients, Wyse, 2007
The thinest thin clients suit vertical applications, such as in a warehouse or retail counter, where a few specialists applications are run. The thickest thin clients are a replacement for a general purpose computer.

Virtualisation allows personal computer applications to be run from a shared server. Applications and data can then easily be moved from the desktop PC to a server in the data center. But before doing this you first need to consider if the PC application would be better replaced with one designed to be run on a shared system. Emulating hundreds or thousands of PCs is a very inefficient process, compared to running a few applications with hundreds or thousands of users. Also the data formats used can be made more efficient. As an example replacing a desktop word processing application, with a shared application could reduce the size of the system needed (perhaps to one tenth the size). While using a blade server might be more efficient than desktop PCs, a more efficient application allowing for a smaller blade server will be even more efficient.

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