Green Computing: The new era in computing

Green computing is the study and practice of using computing resources efficiently. The primary objective of such a program is to account for the triple bottom line, an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational (and societal) success. The goals are similar to green chemistry; reduce the use of hazardous materials, maximize energy efficiency during the product's lifetime, and promote recyclability or biodegradability of defunct products and factory waste.

Modern IT systems rely upon a complicated mix of people, networks and hardware; as such, a green computing initiative must be systemic in nature, and address increasingly sophisticated problems. Elements of such a solution may comprise items such as end user satisfaction, management restructuring, regulatory compliance, disposal of electronic waste, telecommuting, virtualization of server resources, energy use, thin client solutions, and return on investment (ROI).

The imperative for companies to take control of their power consumption, for technology and more generally, therefore remains acute. One of the most effective power management tools available in 2009 may still be simple, plain, common sense.

Origins

In 1992, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched Energy Star, a voluntary labeling program which is designed to promote and recognize energy-efficiency in monitors, climate control equipment, and other technologies. This resulted in the widespread adoption of sleep mode among consumer electronics. The term "green computing" was probably coined shortly after the Energy Star program began; there are several USENET posts dating back to 1992 which use the term in this manner. Concurrently, the Swedish organization TCO Development launched the TCO Certification program to promote low magnetic and electrical emissions from CRT-based computer displays; this program was later expanded to include criteria on energy consumption, ergonomics, and the use of hazardous materials in construction.

Energy

Government
Many governmental agencies have continued to implement standards and regulations that encourage green computing. TheEnergy Star program was revised in October 2006 to include stricter efficiency requirements for computer equipment, along with a tiered ranking system for approved products. The European Union's directives 2002/95/EC (RoHS), on the reduction of hazardous substances, and 2002/96/EC (WEEE) on waste electrical and electronic equipment required the substitution of heavy metals and flame retardants like PBBs and PBDEs in all electronic equipment put on the market starting on July 1, 2006. The directives placed responsibility on manufacturers for the gathering and recycling of old equipment (the Producer Responsibility model)

There are currently 26 US States that have established state-wide recycling programs for obsolete computers and consumer electronics equipment The statutes either impose a fee for each unit sold at retail (Advance Recovery Fee model), or require the manufacturers to reclaim the equipment at disposal (Producer Responsibility model).

Industry
Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI) is an effort to reduce the electric power consumption of PCs in active and inactive states. The CSCI provides a catalog of green products from its member organizations, and information for reducing PC power consumption. It was started on 2007-06-12. The name stems from the World Wildlife Fund's Climate Savers program, which was launched in 1999. The WWF is also a member of the Computing Initiative.

Green Computing Impact Organization, Inc. (GCIO) is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting the end-users of computing products in being environmentally responsible. This mission is accomplished through educational events, cooperative programs and subsidized auditing services. The heart of the group is based on the GCIO Cooperative, a community of environmentally concerned IT leaders who pool their time, resources, and buying power to educate, broaden the use, and improve the efficiency of, green computing products and services. Members work to increase the ROI of green computing products through a more thorough understanding of real measurable and sustainable savings incurred by peers; enforcing a greater drive toward efficiency of vendor products by keeping a community accounting of savings generated; and through group negotiation power.

Green Electronics Council– The Green Electronics Council offers the Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) to assist in the purchase of "green" computing systems. The Council evaluates computing equipment on 28 criteria that measure a product's efficiency and sustainability attributes. On 2007-01-24, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13423, which requires all United States Federal agencies to use EPEAT when purchasing computer systems.

The Green Grid is a global consortium dedicated to advancing energy efficiency in data centers and business computing ecosystems. It was founded in February 2007 by several key companies in the industry – AMD, APC, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Rackable Systems, Spray Cool, Sun Microsystems and VMware. The Green Grid has since grown to hundreds of members, including end users and government organizations, all focused on improving data center efficiency.

International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3) is a programme of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) for global certification of ICT professionals. The program includes certification in Green ICT Strategies, using a curriculum developed by the Australian Computer Society.

Approaches to green computing

Algorithmic efficiency
The efficiency of algorithms has an impact on the amount of computer resources required for any given computing function and there are many efficiency trade-offs in writing programs. As computers have become more numerous and the cost of hardware has declined relative to the cost of energy, the energy efficiency and environmental impact of computing systems and programs has received increased attention.

The 'energy cost' of a single Google search.
The Green500 list, rating supercomputers by energy efficiency.

Virtualization
Computer virtualization refers to the abstraction of computer resources, such as the process of running two or more logical computer systems on one set of physical hardware. The concept originated with the IBM mainframe operating systems of the 1960s, but was commercialized forx86-compatible computers only in the 1990s. With virtualization, a system administrator could combine several physical systems into virtual machines on one single, powerful system, thereby unplugging the original hardware and reducing power and cooling consumption. Several commercial companies and open-source projects now offer software packages to enable a transition to virtual computing. Intel Corporation and AMD have also built proprietary virtualization enhancements to the x86 instruction set into each of their CPU product lines, in order to facilitate virtualized computing.

Terminal Servers
Terminal servers have also been used in green computing methods. When using terminal servers, users connect to a central server; all of the computing is done at the server level but the end user experiences the operating system. These can be combined with thin clients, which use up to 1/8 the amount of energy of a normal workstation, resulting in a decrease of energy costs and consumption. There has been an increase in using terminal services with thin clients to create virtual labs. Examples of terminal server software include Terminal Services for Windows, the Aqua Connect Terminal Server for Mac, and the Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) for the Linux operating system.

Power management
The Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI), an open industry standard, allows an operating system to directly control the power saving aspects of its underlying hardware. This allows a system to automatically turn off components such as monitors and hard drives after set periods of inactivity. In addition, a system may hibernate, where most components (including the CPU and the system RAM) are turned off. ACPI is a successor to an earlier Intel-Microsoft standard called Advanced Power Management, which allows a computer's BIOS to control power management functions.

Some programs allow the user to manually adjust the voltages supplied to the CPU, which reduces both the amount of heat produced and electricity consumed. This process is called undervolting. Some CPUs can automatically undervolt the processor depending on the workload; this technology is called "SpeedStep" on Intel processors, "PowerNow!"/"Cool'n'Quiet" on AMD chips, LongHaul on VIA CPUs, and LongRunwith Transmeta processors.

Power supply
Desktop computer power supplies (PSUs) are generally 70–75% efficient, dissipating the remaining energy as heat. An industry initiative called 80 PLUS certifies PSUs that are at least 80% efficient; typically these models are drop-in replacements for older, less efficient PSUs of the same form factor. As of July 20, 2007, all new Energy Star 4.0-certified desktop PSUs must be at least 80% efficient.

Storage
Smaller form factor (e.g. 2.5 inch) hard disk drives often consume less power per gigabyte than physically larger drives.

Unlike hard disk drives, solid-state drives store data in flash memory or DRAM. With no moving parts, power consumption may be reduced somewhat for low capacity flash based devices. Even at modest sizes, DRAM-based SSDs may use more power than hard disks, (e.g., 4GB i-RAM uses more power and space than laptop drives). Flash based drives are generally slower for writing than hard disks.

As hard drive prices have fallen, storage farms have tended to increase in capacity to make more data available online. This includes archival and backup data that would formerly have been saved on tape or other offline storage. The increase in online storage has increased power consumption. Reducing the power consumed by large storage arrays, while still providing the benefits of online storage, is a subject of ongoing research.

Video Card
A fast GPU may be the largest power consumer in a computer.
Energy efficient display options include:

No video card – use a shared terminal, shared thin client, or desktop sharing software if display required.
Use motherboard video output – typically low 3D performance and low power.

Select a GPU based on average wattage or performance per watt.

Display
LCD monitors typically use a cold-cathode fluorescent bulb to provide light for the display. Some newer displays use an array of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in place of the fluorescent bulb, which reduces the amount of electricity used by the display.

Operating system issues
Microsoft has been heavily criticized for producing operating systems that, out of the box, are not energy efficient. Due to Microsoft's dominance of the huge desktop operating system market this may have resulted in more energy waste than any other initiative by other vendors. Microsoft claim to have improved this in Vista, though the claim is disputed. This problem has been compounded because Windows versions before Vista did not allow power management features to be configured centrally by a system administrator. This has meant that most organizations have been unable to improve this situation.

Again, Microsoft Windows Vista has improved this by adding basic central power management configuration. The basic support offered has been unpopular with system administrators who want to change policy to meet changing user requirements or schedules. Several software products have been developed to fill this gap including Auto Shutdown Manager,Data Synergy PowerMAN, Faronics Power Save, 1E NightWatchman, Verdiem Surveyor/Edison, Verismic Power Manager, WakeupOnStandBy (WOSB), TOff and Greentrac (also promotes behavioral change) among others.

Materials recycling
Computer systems that have outlived their particular function can be repurposed, or donated to various charities and non-profit organizations. However, many charities have recently imposed minimum system requirements for donated equipment. Additionally, parts from outdated systems may be salvaged and recycled through certain retail outlets and municipal or private recycling centers.

Recycling computing equipment can keep harmful materials such as lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium out of landfills, but often computers gathered through recycling drives are shipped to developing countries where environmental standards are less strict than in North America and Europe. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition estimates that 80% of the post-consumer e-waste collected for recycling is shipped abroad to countries such as China, India, and Pakistan. Computing supplies, such as printer cartridges, paper, and batteries may be recycled as well.

Telecommuting
Teleconferencing and telepresence technologies are often implemented in green computing initiatives. The advantages are many; increased worker satisfaction, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions related to travel, and increased profit margins as a result of lower overhead costs for office space, heat, lighting, etc. The savings are significant; the average annual energy consumption for U.S. office buildings is over 23 kilowatt hours per square foot, with heat, air conditioning and lighting accounting for 70% of all energy consumed. Other related initiatives, such ashotelling, reduce the square footage per employee as workers reserve space only when they need it. Many types of jobs — sales, consulting, and field service — integrate well with this technique.
Voice over IP (VoIP) reduces the telephony wiring infrastructure by sharing the existing Ethernet copper. VoIP and phone extension mobility also made Hot desking and more practical.

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