Guest post by Laura Swain, who is a freelance writer and researcher for Melbourne Server Hosting (UK).
Today, we live in a world populated by an expanding generation of web users who have come to expect a near-miraculous standard of technical progress. Their expectations are founded on the exponential growth of information and communications technologies (ICT), wherein staggering rates of evolution have enabled mass production of powerful software and hardware on an unprecedented scale.
Yet, neither physical hardware nor the apparent infinity of the web is exempt from wider concerns about the impact of economic practices on the disturbing trend of climate change. Physical data centres host the web content we know and love in large, capital-intensive facilities, which must be constantly upgraded, cooled and powered around the clock to keep up with the pace of demand. The processing power of computing multiplies year after year and so does the economic and ecological cost of its energy consumption. Therefore, the importance of applying a smarter, “green” approach to computing becomes more apparent.
The convergence of economic and environmental interests in the matter of energy efficiency has escaped the attention of some but not all innovators in the ICT field. Companies at the vanguard of green computing such as those that provide cloud server hosting have taken advantage of the profit in managing the efficiency of a data centre with the environment in mind. Not surprisingly, saving costly energy saves money, so it is in any operator’s interest to take steps to de-commission old machines, optimize the UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) system frequently and incorporates “free cooling” systems that use outdoor air and local, recycled water to reduce heat output. Upgrading the infrastructure of data facilities confers both competitive advantage and social responsibility.
Making green improvements need not be mutually exclusive to economic growth. In fact, a thriving and sustainable IT sector is exactly what we need to ensure an economically productive future (PDF), for the industry is exemplary in its efforts to produce the means by which all sectors can become more financially and energy-efficient. Key examples are the mainstream boom in virtualization and its influence on the provision of computing as a “cloud”-based service hosted entirely on the web.
The cloud in question functions as an efficient grid for the necessary allocation of resources. Outsourcing computing to external cloud servers can reduce in-house IT overhead and enable managers to pay only for the services they need. The cloud provides a resource-sharing solution that cuts the danger to the atmosphere posed by redundant space on legacy servers. The newest cloud servers are a happy paradox of smaller size and greater capacity, reducing the emissions burden of hardware dramatically while condensing storage space and processing time to more sustainable and customer-friendly levels.
A growing number in the ICT industry are working hard to employ its cutting-edge products in other sectors to reduce inefficiency across the economy. Because of a natural alliance between ICT visionaries and the movement to combat man-made climate change, we can increasingly look to this sector for inspiration in the ongoing effort to reduce emissions.
Photo “Servers stock photo” by cip_sb, on Flickr.