Roland Dürre
Wednesday March 24th, 2010

Green IT 2

Some of the feedback I received suggests to me that my article Green IT probably contained a little too much technological gibberish, after all.

So let me try to tell you the same again in very simple terms. Today, IT can be exemplified and explained in a simple architecture using four levels:

  • Storage
    When talking about storage, we mean powerful NAS or SAN systems used by the servers in the computer centres. By now, huge computer centres have storage room with the capacity of terabytes, some people even talk of petabytes.
  • Server
    Nowadays, we use the term “server farms”. In these farms, any number of computers performs in a gigantic calculating and processing dimension. In such a physically large system, you mostly simulate many virtual servers later used for all imaginable ends.
  • Network
    The internet is based on a gigantic network. Mostly, the feeders of the internet are separate connected networks.
  • Client
    Clients are the personal PCs, Laptops, SmartPhones and whatever else we have. They are connected to the internet either through networks (VPNs, LAN, WLAN …) or through providers (FIBRE, UMTS …).

Now what I postulate is that a gigantic wastage takes place on every one of these levels.

  • Storage
Of course, storage causes an infinite amount of data rubbish. The best example is emails. Many of them (not even considering SPAMs) are saved several times on several systems, including their attachments. The storage, too, is often done on active systems these days. Storage solutions that put hard discs to sleep (like for instance Copan) were not able to establish themselves on the market.
  • Server
Every single processing server means a number of servers needed for the sole purpose of encrypting, looking for viruses, simulating proxys or generating DMZs. Or else they store useless data on a permanent basis. Everything gets a double bottom and triple security, partly because people fear imagined threats.
  • Netzworks
The best example for the waste of networks is the uncontrolled growth of private and business WLANs. Just step into any office building, apartment house or even detached house. Almost always, your laptop will receive a signal for more than one WLAN; often the number will even be a two-digit one. And most of them are just idle, there is no traffic.
  • Client
How often is your home PC turned on while you are in the office? How often is your office PC turned on while you are at home? The Smart Phone is active all the time, and when you are travelling, you use your laptop. What is worst, however, is that you have to replace the entire thing if you want to have a state-of-the-art system. The systems I know sadly lack a suitable upgrade concept. If it existed, it would probably not be profitable. Throwing it away is just cheaper. On most of our clients, we have a majority of insecure operating systems with very sensitive browsers, which is one reason why the security costs are so high.

As a sum total, we get a gigantic wastefulness. If we were more considerate and showed more collective good-will (for instance by switching off the Spams), it would be easy to relinquish 90 % of all IT technology.  As a consequence, the energy we need could, for example, be reduced from the prevailing 10 % to a level of 1 %.

If abbreviations such as SAN, NAS, DMZ, PROXY …, services such as TWITTER …, applications such as WORDPRESS … sound strange to you, you can easily find the explanations in wikipedia. It is no surprise that all IT topics enjoy a particularly wide presence in wikipedia. And besides, IT is mostly easier to understand than “hard technology”, such as how an internal gear hub (Nabenschaltung) works (also something you can find in wikipedia).

If old IT cracks say it is all too specialized and they find it hard to understand the new IT world with all its abbreviations and applications, then this is just due to their laziness. There has never been another time in IT history when the technology was as beautifully described and as easily accessible as today.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

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