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Technology for a low carbon future

Written by  Chong Win Lee
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Chong Win LeeIssue:Asia-Pacific I 2010
Article no.:9
Topic:Technology for a low carbon future
Author:Chong Win Lee
Title:Business Development Leader
Organisation:Nortel Asia
PDF size:182KB

About author

Lee Chong Win is the Leader of Business Development & Strategy at Nortel Enterprise Solutions for Asia/Middle East/Africa; he has over 15 years of professional experience in IT and telecoms engineering, consulting, professional services and sales. Prior to his current role, Mr Chong Win held management positions in Nortel, EMC Corporation and Periphonics Corporation. Lee Chong Win holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Information Systems.

 

Article abstract

ICT consumes enormous amounts of energy. The sector accounts for some two per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions - about the same amount as the aviation industry. In the USA alone, data centre energy usage is likely to double by 2011. Changes in network architecture, more efficient equipment, virtualisation - the pooling of resources with other users, the use of ‘cloud computing’ and the adoption of industry-wide efficiency standards can help the sector take the lead in emission reduction.

 

Full Article

Information Communications Technologies (ICT) has transformed the world in which we live. The Internet, conceived as a tool for information sharing and collaboration, over time has become the primary catalyst of globalization and made the world smaller and more mobile in the process. The power of ICT as an enabler of economic prosperity and productivity is unquestioned, but in the coming years ICT’s ability to usher in change will be put to the test - tackling climate change. There are more than one billion PCs in use today and analysts agree that the manufacture of ICT equipment, its use and disposal accounts for around two per cent of global CO2 emissions - roughly equivalent to the aviation industry. With demand growing year by year, the sector could easily become an even more significant contributor to the greenhouse effect in years to come. The data centre is an ICT area garnering a lot of attention. Energy use by servers and data centres in the US, for example, doubled between 2000 and 2006 and, given current trends, this consumption is projected to almost double again by 2011. There are several reasons that data centres consume so much energy. First, they run continuously and are always drawing power from the grid. Data centres also have to be able to absorb big peaks in demand, so they need capacity far in excess of their average utilization rate. Finally, with ongoing exponential growth in data storage demand, data centres are often dramatically oversized to allow for growth. Even a small change in the design of components used in data centres can make a big difference - in both economic and environmental terms. In an era where any opportunity to trim expenses is welcome, the cost that can be saved by adopting hardware that reduces power consumption by 30-40 per cent makes compelling sense to a company’s CFO. For a business with a 2,500-user network, efficiency gains in the data centre alone can result in savings of US$65,000 dollars per year. This reduction means the environment no longer has to absorb 206 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions, according to calculations using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Over five years, this carbon emission abatement is equal to the lifetime savings of installing 51 single-dwelling rooftop wind turbines. Another trend that stands to drive down the overall carbon footprint of data centres is virtualization - pooling assets such as computing and storage when usage is low, and sharing them throughout the enterprise and beyond. ICT’s role in reducing carbon emissions reaches well beyond the data centre. Web collaboration tools can make home networking a possibility for millions of employees, creating a culture of eco-friendly tele-workers. In addition, using advanced video conferencing technology and virtual world environments will save on business travel, which in turn reduces emissions from planes and other forms of transportation. Today, companies - with the help of their vendors - are beginning to implement conferencing in their network solutions. When employees in Singapore need to meet with their counterparts in Sydney, they needn’t head for the airport. A group video conferencing session lets them get work, get right back to their desks right, and home as usual to their families that evening. The video conference meeting runs as smoothly as if the participants were in the same room - and not 6300km apart. Unified Communications solutions can help staff work more effectively than ever. It’s a fundamental change in workplace collaboration, but it also helps companies turn their environmental ideals into reality by finding new roles for the technology they use. Tele-working, once seen as a way of improving employee satisfaction with more flexible working practices, has also become a key part of green initiatives. When employees tele-work and are equipped to work remotely, it directly reduces the harmful emissions caused by driving or commuting. IP soft phone applications running on employee laptops let employees stay in touch while they travel - without requiring power for a separate phone. Voice isn’t the only thing employees can take with them when they tele-work; thanks to unified communications capabilities, employees can also use multimedia conferencing, instant messaging, presence, and other collaboration tools to stay in touch with colleagues and customers in the company and around the world. Those running global networks have also shown that sound environmental management can result in financial benefits to the business and added value to customers and other stakeholders. In concrete terms, we obtained the following results in one instance: • Significant reductions in the area of server count through a four-year project to consolidate almost close to 2000 servers in a period of four years. This helped reduce energy consumption by an estimated 15 million kWh per year. • With virtualization efforts, 245 virtual servers sourced by 23 physical servers has resulted in a reduction of hardware spending of close to U$750 K and projected reduction of energy spending of U$107K/yr • Unified Communications - combining voice, video and data applications to support anytime, anywhere presence communications over many devices - and seamless tele-working combined to decrease travel. We have seen a US $5million per year savings from audio conferencing, a US$5million per year estimated travel avoidance savings from video conference and a 55 per cent reduction in calling card, long distance and telephone charges. With new sites, we experienced a 40-70 per cent reduction in move / add / change costs, 60-75 per cent lower cabling costs, 30-65 per cent lower communications room footprint. • When ten per cent of employees are tele-working and 85 per cent are equipped to work remotely productivity improves greatly and CO2 emissions are reduced as a result of travel avoidance. It is estimated that under these circumstances, with 2500 tele-workers, there is a reduction in 6,918 tons of CO2 per year - the equivalent of replacing ~ 96,000 100w light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs Green software is another area that shows great promise for enabling the efficiencies that reduce environmental impact. Businesses cannot manage what they cannot measure. Many software companies are now bringing software to market that will help companies monitor and manage their energy consumption and the carbon footprint of their networks. Software for implementing and tracking the progress of carbon footprint reduction will soon be recognised as an important strategic asset. Environmental accountability is no longer simply ‘nice to have’. Thanks to the advances made in the ICT sector, companies can save significant amounts while also greatly reducing the environmental impact of their communications networks. Increased efficiency, better service levels, lower costs and reduced environmental impact combine to deliver a real win-win for any organisation that embraces a forward-thinking approach. All of these technologies are a step in the right direction. However, to fully realise a low carbon society, the ICT sector must take a leadership role in the fight against climate change. The sector needs to tap its own resourcefulness and ability to innovate to help drive the transformation into an energy efficient low carbon society. The realisation of a low carbon society will only happen if ICT plays a leading role in the transformation. The solution of the problem is strongly tied to multi-vendor standards for the broad set of technologies and equipments that make up data centres. Through collaboration on standards for measuring performance within the data centre (you can’t manage what you don’t measure), our industry can send a strong signal to our customers, employees and shareholders that we take climate change seriously and are working towards meaningful solutions. Global challenges call for purposeful collaboration. This will be ICT’s greatest test, and potentially its greatest success - so long as we are willing to lead the way and act as a model for other industries.

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