The current level of growth in digital services brings with it both challenges and opportunities. Experts from academia and industry have assembled their thoughts and experiences on these issues to produce the 15 chapters in this book.
In a chapter titled “Emerging Technologies and Their Environmental Impact,” it is noted that there could be 50 billion Internet-connected devices by 2020; most of these will rely on technologies such as cloud computing, device connectivity, and information sharing to deliver their functionality. It is also noted that we will be able to realize positive environmental impacts through opportunities in transport and in building heating and lighting.
There is an interesting observation concerning the use of added or enhanced functionality as a selling point for new products. An improvement in camera resolution, for instance, can generate a demand for additional storage and transfer capacity. An additional capability such as health monitoring might result in extra background-process central processing unit (CPU) load, regardless of whether the user actually employs that capability. These themes are revisited in later chapters.
One chapter (“The Law of Green IT”) discusses the integrated product policy (IPP) pursued by the European Union (EU). The author observes that a number of green regulative schemes have been established; these are relevant for manufacturers, retailers, and information technology (IT) consumers.
Cloud computing has been seen as a mechanism for exploiting economies of scale through energy-aware dynamic resource allocation. The challenges and risks associated with its adoption are discussed in several chapters.
Virtual machines within a cloud may be allocated to physical nodes at widely differing locations. It may be possible to dynamically reallocate them at off-peak times so that some nodes can be quiesced. However, care must be taken to ensure that data transfer costs are contained, and that quality of service (QoS) figures are maintained.
Cloud computing systems are now widely used for the advancement of scientific research in projects like the Large Hadron Collider. In the interests of sustainability, it is desirable that standard operating procedures are adopted for such projects. The OpenStack suite is highly regarded in this context.
Sustainability in a wider context is discussed in a chapter with the title “Sustainable Software Design.” A diagram shows the carbon dioxide emissions for a personal computer (PC) over its life cycle; it apparently lost some clarity during its conversion from color to grayscale, but it appears to show that only half the emissions occur during the use phase.
The author of that chapter observes that the increasing demands of upcoming generations of system and applications software can be interpreted as a subtle mechanism for planned obsolescence. Many older devices are unable to run newer versions of applications, and few companies provide security fixes for older devices.
There are a number of economies that can be realized through the management of power used for lighting and air conditioning. One of the suggestions offered in this regard is that street lighting levels might be reduced during periods of low traffic.
A more sensible endeavor is discussed in a chapter about the automated demand/response mechanisms currently being used for load shedding in nonresidential buildings in Thames Valley (UK) and in parts of Texas and New York. I was really impressed by the infrastructure savings that have been achieved.
In another chapter, research workers from Leeds Beckett University note that the increased reliability of contemporary components may allow data center temperatures to be maintained at a higher level than previously possible. Their experiments in this regard showed little benefit. What they did discover is that significant gains could be realized by using an evaporative cooling mechanism rather than a refrigerative one.
Until now, I have always believed that real savings in overall energy costs could be realized in academic and office environments through the use of thin client technology. A Leeds Beckett University team actually did some experiments in this area, and the results are presented in the penultimate chapter.
This is not an easy book to read: there is a significant degree of content overlap in chapters written by various authors; many of the figures quoted are out of date; and some of the charts have lost clarity through being reproduced in grayscale form. But if you have any interest in a sustainable future, you’ll find it’s worth reading in its entirety. Some of the case studies present surprising results.