Tuesday Mar 18, 2008

Saving the Planet

Richard Barrington, who doesn't blog as often as he should, Sun's Green Lantern, introduced the day's keynote speaker, Craig Bennett, from Cambridge University's Programme for Industry. He spoke about the science of climate change. He used a combination of his own slides,and Al Gore's which reminds me I still haven't seen "an inconvenient truth".

Greenhouse gases are at an all time historical high. Unless we stop producing them, this will continue. Some natural (and a few human) processes consume carbon. The amount of green house gases in the atmosphere determine the temperature of the earth. The Stern Report talks about the potential effects of changes in the average temperature and argues it is possible to restrict the growth in green house gases, but the world needs to act in concert.

Craig's web site states that he led CPI’s work on the Bali Commuiniqué which brought together 170 global companies in support of a comprehensive, legally-binding United Nations framework to tackle climate change and generated global media attention, Sun was a signatory and is an active participant in the CPI's activities.

He also repeated Gore's slides about how science and journalists treat the issues, by comparing the weight of scientific peer reviewed papers versus the balance of media coverage. There were no scientists arguing that the level of green house gases are not dangerous. Science has agreed that green house gases cause climate change, and that human activity contributes to the danagerous level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The majority of press coverage was oppossed to this view. (2006).

When asked his opinion about what might be done, he firstly suggested that the politicians havn't really got to grips with the importance and inexorability of climate change and that another major western city will need a New Orleans style disaster before they take it seriously, but his other, possibly more low key suggestions were

  • there is no silver bullet, we need silver buckshot
  • tax bad things not good things i.e. can we discriminate between clean & dirty energy, its a bit tricky with a 17½% VAT on everything
  • government procurement should prioritise low carbon goods

This is what the Guardian said about the Stern Report, when it was first published.

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Tuesday May 22, 2007

More Futurology, Gartner's "Emerging Trends"

I am in Barcelona, attending Gartner's European Symposium and Expo. They have two of these each year and the spring event is positioned as broader and more forward looking. It was opened by a tour de force from Peter Cole, (CEO) and six of their top researchers. Later discussions brought home to me that one needs to be very carefull when listening to clever people, as sometimes one (i.e. I ) can assume that they mean the same things as yourself, this isn't always so.

I do wonder however whether their Macro-economic analysis is based too strongly on financial volume and on their boundary definition of IT. Just because our children don't see what they do as using IT, doesn't mean that it is not IT.

Another key insight I obtained here, is that there is a debate between those who think that IT as an industry is entering a maturity stage and those who don't. I should really have known this. Some IT companies are (very successfully) betting their future on the first view. I believe that because IT is dependent on software, which is not constrained by the laws of physics, it will continue to evolve rapidly and that its evolution will remain a source of value and wealth creation in the developed world for a while to come. This means that IT and most importantly, company's software portfolios will remain a source of differentiation and competitive advantage. Another point made to me is that peer based collaboration or community development may inhibit, ignore or exclude the genius that provokes radical change. It's an interesting point of view and one that community wranglers may need to think about.

A fair amount of time has been spent talking about "Green IT". Gartner's late arrival to this issue can be forgiven due the bravery of launching thier programmes in the USA, where they may be able to begin to remove the partisanship from the issue. 

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Monday Mar 12, 2007

Is this a technology vendor?

Richard Barrington kicked us off and introduced firstly a video of Jonathon Porritt, talking about climate change and the need to act. Richard is very articulate on this himself arguing that the key policy for both the public polity and the private is to consume less power. If we can do that, we still have a chance of avoiding disaster. It was interesting to me that this was one of the central themes of the opening session. Today's Guardian reported on the Government's announcement that the carbon reduction commitment of the UK ( 60% reduction by 2050) is going to become law, Brown & Cameron are having a duel by press release to prove their green credentials and George Monbiot nails the Channel 4 documentary based on the countervailing view from last week. I missed the news that Curry's are going to stop selling incandescent bulbs.

The opening key note speaker, Steve Nunn from Accenture also picked up on the climate change commitments that governments are making and importantly added the system utilisation dimension. The easiest way to reduce the demand for power by data centres is to drive up utilisation using the co-hosting, consolidation and virtualisation policies, and retire and reduce the number of systems required to perform the work. The final part of the jigsaw is that the acquisition costs of computer systems continue to fall, but the cost of power will increase. Today, there are many systems which will cost more to power during their working life then they cost to buy, and data centre managers need to adopt policies to manage this expanding part of their (or their employer's) budget.

As an aside, he stated that he didn't believe that windows systems could achieve more than 55% utilisation, even with virtualisation. I wonder if we could build a more performant solution with Solaris as the OS and using windows as a guest in some way.

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Wednesday May 31, 2006

Green Futures

I also looked through Green Futures, a magazine about sustainable development which I picked up at one of the Sun offices. It has attracted a number of corporate sponsors, including a number of energy companies and telcos (inc. BT) and surprisingly "First Choice" (one of the UKs biggest travel agents). One of the articles was about Holiday's in 2020 (see also this article..., I wonder if they're linked in anyway?).

The main feature was an article by Anthony Lovins, arguing that green energy is cheap energy and that nuclear is both poor environmentally, but also bad economics. (See http://www.rmi.org).

I may have to subscribe to this, and I don't see an RSS button. I was surprised when I first heard that Charles Andrews, had been talking to a UK Bank's board members about the brand value of a green data centre, but senior business executives are running with this stuff and I for one need to catch up.

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