Tag Archives: business technology

A Path to a Greener IT

Business man with laptop in green fieldEver since the early days of the Hollerith tabulating machine, computing has relied on electricity. Computers in the 1940s and 1950s were based on vacuum tubes, which used a lot of electricity and displaced enormous amounts of heat, thus requiring even more electricity to cool them down. As transistors and integrated circuits came into use, the amount of needed electricity went down but the amount of data and associated computing went up. IT continued to be a large power consumer.


As computers entered into the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, they transformed from a mainframe to a minicomputer, to a workstation, and finally, to the personal computer. We went from one computer in a room to several computers per rack. What we saved in size, we made up in volume. We were able to consolidate the number of computing centers that we built but increased the power and cooling needs of each computer room and data center. IT continued to be a decidedly “non-green” industry.

Current Trends

Through consolidation, we now build and operate mega data centers. According to the Data Center Journal, “Mega data centers sprawl over hundreds of thousands of square feet and can exceed 10 megawatts of power, with some approaching a million square feet or 100 megawatts” (http://www.datacenterjournal.com/dcj-magazine/the-rise-of-mega-data-centers/). These data centers provide computing and data storage for small and large companies as well as individuals through services such as Dropbox. Through consolidation, many of these data centers are placed in areas that enjoy cooler temperatures, thus reducing the cooling and power requirements. Many are also placed in areas that enjoy close proximity to inexpensive clean hydroelectric power and wind power. An increasing number of companies are reducing their data center exposure in areas served by coal power, partly to save costs and partly to reduce their environmental footprint.


The current trend is more towards mobile computing and away from desktop computing. This trend moves our client computing away from large fan-cooled systems, towards more efficient laptops, tablets, and smartphones. These battery-based computers still require electricity but are much more efficient than their desktop counterpart.

On the other hand, because of the diminished storage capacity of mobile systems, they rely on cloud computing and mega data centers for their processing and storage needs. The key to a greener IT future lies in maximizing the efficiency of data centers. Computer manufacturers such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard are innovating ways to cool computers through the use of increased airflow and even liquid cooling. Data center operators such as Google and Amazon are aggressively pursuing techniques such as virtual computing so that they reduce the physical computing footprint while increasing the amount of data that they can house and process. A gallery of Google data center technology http://www.google.com/about/datacenters/gallery/ shows the physical infrastructure that Google maintains. Businesses are trying to save money and reduce their computing and environmental footprint by consolidating their computing needs into cloud computing solutions. Data center providers are trying to save money and reduce their environmental footprint by reducing their power consumption. Together, we can all move toward greener, more sustainable computing.

What have you done lately to improve your computing impact on the environment?


About Kelly BrownAuthor Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.

To BYOD or not to BYOD

shutterstock_128593868Bring Your Own Device or BYOD is a hot topic these days, but what’s the big deal? It seems that everyone has their own smartphone/pocket computer. We learned to deal with the Blackberry years ago. Why not blur the lines between consumer technology and business technology? Can’t we all just get along? While it may seem that your IT department is the very embodiment of Dilbert’s Mordac, The Preventer of Information Services, there is a very good reason why they are cautious and you should be too.


The device belongs to the employee but the data belongs to the company. Mobile devices are great for extending our workflow, our workday, and for keeping us in constant contact. In the midst of all of this work, wherever it may happen, an employee will most likely pass company data through their mobile device, either for viewing, editing or storing. Company confidential information is worrisome enough but what about personally identifiable information (PII) belonging to your customers? Is every mobile device protected by a PIN? Is data encrypted on your device while at rest? Is data always encrypted while transiting over the network? How are employees sharing data? Over the cloud? Whose cloud? There is a lot to think about when deciding on a BYOD policy and deciding whether to allow personal devices to access your network. Bill Ho, president of Biscom has created a list of security items to consider when creating a BYOD security policy.


As the number of IT personnel has shrunk through cost cutting and rightsizing, the number of smart devices and platforms has exploded. Blackberry used to be the only game in town, but now we have Apple iOS, Android, Windows Phone, WebOS and other platforms with fun version names like Ice Cream Sandwich and Jellybean. Further up the stack, there are apps that have their own security issues. The sheer combinatorics of it all would cause any IT professional to run screaming for the network closet. To do justice to a solid BYOD policy, an organization would need at least one full time person to monitor platforms and applications that are accessing the enterprise systems. Do you have that kind of manpower? Is there a middle ground without compromising information security mentioned above?


Another consideration is the compatibility of all of these different devices and platforms and mobile applications and your corporate applications. Will X always talk to Y? Does it cause the IT department to scramble to get your unique permutation working for you? Is it worth the effort for your personal productivity?

Good News

There is a lot to consider when deciding to embrace BYOD. On the upside, it can extend the productivity of employees as long as security and compatibility concerns are adequately addressed. The good news is that there are tools available to help you manage mobile devices. You can find solutions from IT service providers such as IBM and Dell or from security providers such as Symantec and others. These applications can help you reach the right level of availability, convenience, and security in order for your employees to maximize their productivity and help you sleep at night.

Do you have a comprehensive BYOD plan? Is it working? What keeps you up at night?


About Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.