Green IT Predictions for 2009

Green IT Predictions for 2009

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It is that time of the year when we forecast environmental issues for the New Year. There have been some important new developments that happened in 2008.

  • · A new U.S. Presidential Administration was elected that is passionate about the Environment
  • · Environmental regulations are increasing from many countries
  • · The economic health of the world is in significant crisis

2009 and 2010 will see the start of IT organizations investigating Environmental Regulation strategies and increase environmental impact skill sets

Even if IT leaders don’t care about environmental stewardship, they care about government regulations that impact IT operations. In the last couple of years, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act has impacted most IT organizations with stringent reporting standards. With the new presidential administration committing the United States to a environmental cap and trade model, the European Union promoting a Datacenter code of conduct and various government bodies promoting more oversight and environmental and energy ceilings, IT leaders will need to quickly become more cognizant with environmental regulations and work to form productive environmentally sustainable strategies for their organizations.

In 2009, the Economic Downturn will greatly impact Green IT investments.

There is no doubt that organizations are reducing IT investments in light of the economic downturn. Many have argued that the reduced price of oil and economic pressures will kill the Green movement. The death of the green movement in organizations and society has been greatly exaggerated. However, there will be some changes in green IT investment activity.

  • · Environmental Sustainability projects that positively impact the bottom line in the short run will be moved to the front of the line. Examples include virtualization and consolidation projects.
  • · Environmental Sustainability projects that increase costs of organizations or do not impact immediate regulatory needs will be delayed. For example, some recycling efforts (paper, e-waste projects) will probably not expand as much as originally anticipated in 2009

In 2009, Embodied Environmental Impact will start becoming a more important issue for environmentalists in the mainstream public.

Surprised recently, I saw a report that 60-80% of the energy and environmental impact of a laptop happens before the customer even buys the computer. It is much lower for servers (average around 25%). This is commonly called embodied environmental cost. As we become more sophisticated on good Life Cycle Assessments (LCA: commonly used for Carbon footprint measurement models), many will insist on measuring embodied costs.

2009 will be the year of the Green Developer

Besides all of the “green is good for IT” articles, there have been a good deal of writing about building green physical datacenters as well as adopting virtualization. However, when analyzing different professionals in the IT market, developers were usually the most passionate about environmental impact. Yet, developers have the least amount of guidance on environmentally sustainable development best practices.

What are best practices to reduce energy and computational resource consumption for application design?

Sloppy code is wasteful. Not only is it slow, error prone and often not extensible, it usually wastes energy and utilize unnecessary computational resources. This has a significantly negative impact on the environment. However, most architects are given the “virtualize the problem away” answer for environmental sustainability.

While virtualization is very positive for reducing environmental impact and improving resource efficiency, continuously leaning on virtualization to fix wasteful application designs is like sweeping dirt under a rug. Pretty soon, the pileup of application design dirt prevents anyone from walking on the rug. That’s called Virtual Server Sprawl.

2009 will be the year of Pervasive Virtualization (as well as Virtual Server Sprawl)

As more vendors introduce more inexpensive and powerful server virtualization capabilities, virtualization will become much more pervasive in 2009. We will see more consolidation stories promoting how organizations are saving money and reducing environmental impact.

However, while this problem started to come up years ago, 2009 will see Virtual Server Sprawl becoming common and the market will soon see poor virtualization management and hiding wasteful applications as environmentally inefficient. Customers and the industry will want more sophisticated answers in 2009.

Note: last year, I predicted that 2008 would see the start of physical server sprawl as a result of virtual server sprawl. Some large customers are already reporting physical server acquisition velocity issues as a result of years of virtualization sprawl (note: the virtualization vendor wasn’t Microsoft’s, however, the issues are the same)

In 2009, many companies will start moving out non-competitive IT functionality

It’s true that cloud services for the enterprise are really at their infancy. However, with the economic downturn, companies are being forced to ramp up early adoption in light of the high cost of data center operations as well as the increased environmental and energy regulations for IT operations. However, in light of embodied metrics as well as upcoming environmental regulations, companies will want real green metric agreements from new cloud service providers.

In 2009, competition will increase for the Green Cloud

Who is the greenest cloud provider for your applications and solutions?   Which cloud providers will report environmental metrics and provide concrete green operational level agreements for enterprises which you can use for verification in your own environmental reporting?    Currently, we don’t know how cloud providers will compete with green services.   However, by the end of 2009, I predict we’ll start finding out some answers.

In 2009, many IT leaders will start to regret carbon offset expenses.

With market commitments to the cap and trade system and more environmental regulation, there will be temptation for IT leaders to expand their carbon offset strategy for their organization. Because of the limited standards and enforcement between various markets, it will be a breeding ground for fraud and waste. While carbon offsets offer some short term answers for IT professionals and should eventually promote positive activity, some IT leaders will start to regret some of their carbon offset investments.

In 2009, the whole “Green” vs. other marketing label debate will be viewed as a silly waste of time.

Many green leaders have spent countless hours debating the accuracy of various environmental labels. Because of the popularity of the movement, there have been many debating good and bad labels to use. In 2009, thought leaders will realize it is an absolute waste of time to debate marketing labels and instead focus more energy on more pressing questions and answers that impact this important movement. (I really hope so.)

In 2009, countries will start investigating how to leverage green regulations to increase their influence on multi-national corporations.  

There will be competition to out green each other to have greater influence on multi-national corporations than other countries. Ever since multi-national corporations have existed, countries have competed for influential power over multi-nationals. Most assume environmental treaties are promoting real regulatory standards in the environmental arena. The truth is the far from this. There are no real enforceable implementation standards of various environmental global standards. In 2009, some countries will take advantage of this confusion gap to manipulate multi-nationals for their own interests. While ensuring environmental compliance and stewardship is always important, it will be important for organizations to be prepared for opportunistic manipulation tactics by various political entities.

In 2009, green social web groups will evolve into more organized and focused environmental reporting forces.

The social web is becoming a transformative experience for various galvanizing themes in the world. As official bodies lobby for environmental standards and the press invest in environmental reporting, in 2009, the environmentally passionate will leverage more of the social web for greater oversight into new levels not experienced before. Want to know the real embodied cost of a service or a product in the market and the company isn’t giving any answers? Various intelligence and insights from the masses will start to give some answers. In 2009, we will see more semantic and social structures finding their way into political issues, like environmental accountability. And this is just starting. You think the social web had a profound impact on the last presidential election, the social and semantic structures that will be utilized in the next presidential election will truly blow your mind.

In 2010, there will be debate about environmental impact privacy for private citizens.

With semantic and social structures reporting environmental accountability of organizations greatly expanding, it will become easier and easier to publicly know the environmental impact of regular people. That knowledge will lead to an interesting debate about environmental privacy. Should environmental privacy exist? Should it be protected? What could governments or organizations do with this information?


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