Thursday Jan 21, 2010

Dispelling Green Grid Rumors

Over its three year history The Green Grid has become a critical resource in the effort to make the world's datacenters sustainable. What I particularly appreciate is the focus on practical information and tools, in addition to the standards and advocacy work that you would expect.

One of the core tenets of the group, from the beginning, is that it include end-user companies as well as datacenter product and service providers. Despite that fact that over 15% of the membership is end-user companies, the organization continues to fight rumors that it is limited to IT providers.

Mark Monroe, Sun's rep on The Green Grid and current Green Grid Treasurer, summarizes the situation:

...there is a strong rumor that "end user" organizations, i.e., non-IT equipment or service vendors, "are not allowed to join The Green Grid." The rumor appears to be especially strong in the financial community.

The Green Grid was formed with the idea that it was to be "an end-user driven organization" right from the start. More than 15% of TGG's members are pure end user organizations, that is, companies that offer no products or services in the IT arena, but only use IT equipment in their operations.

In addition, TGG formed an end user Advisory Council in November of 2008 to help guide the organization at the highest level. The Advisory Council consists of 8 large end user companies, including AT&T, Verizon, Walt Disney, ADP, Strato AG, eBay, Nationwide, and Tokyo Electric Power, who meet and advise the board of directors of The Green Grid directly on issues of organization direction and strategy.

Membership is open to any company, any size, industry, or geography who is interested in improving data center efficiency. When a company joins, every employee is eligible to participate in The Green Grid's work, and contribute to the effort of improving the efficiency of data centers globally.

Please help get the word out, and support TGG anyway you can!

Monday Jan 04, 2010

Green Education: What We Need

Over the holidays USA Today had an article talking about the sudden rise of green-oriented minor and major programs at universities. According to Paul Rowland, Executive Director of Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, two factors are driving the surge: students want the courses, and employers want the trained students.

When I give talks on our book "Citizen Engineer" at universities this topic always comes up. In specific, we discuss what employers are looking for in these students.

The first point is clear from the article: energy is a "sweet spot". The examples at Illinois State, MIT and UC Berkeley all centered on energy. For the first time in decades there is a wave of innovation in this sector, and not only in companies that generate energy, but also those that depend on it for their operations or products. We certainly fall into this latter bucket at Sun, and more of our engineering jobs come with a requirement of understanding electrical energy and how our electricity infrastructure works in real life.

The second point relates to general sustainability degrees. While these were barely mentioned in the article, we are starting to see some students come from programs with majors in sustainability, and I hear of many universities considering adding such a degree.

My feeling on this has become pretty clear cut: a minor degree in sustainability is a wonderful idea, a major is not. We need more awareness of environmental needs and solutions in all of our roles in business: our engineers, chemists, lawyers, business people and operations teams. But the key is that these are all highly specialized roles, and the people need to be able to do these first. I want the major to be in these areas, and will highly value a minor in sustainability.

The proof, of course, is in the pudding. At Sun we have no sustainability generalists, and I don't anticipate that we would ever hire one. In every real-world case we've always needed someone with training or experience in a specific expertise.

To sum up, my advice to universities is always the same: energy is a great major or minor, but be careful of majors in general sustainability. Be world class in the things you already do, and layer in sustainability minor to make those folks even more marketable.

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