Bill Gates on Green Computing

Consulate of Brazil - SydneyOne of the reoccurring topics recently has been green computing and how the architecture decisions that we make impact the environment. From laptops to data centers, we are trying to reduce power consumption. On laptops it’s obvious because the more power you consume the worse your battery life is going to be and people see that dramatically. When I’m talking about battery life, I will usually say I’ve got X number of hours doing word processing and the like, X number of hours writing code and compiling and such and X number of hours watching movies. It actually makes a difference in data centers too as there are heating issues and electrical bills that are important. In an eWeek article, they said that data centers are responsible for roughly 1.2% of the nations power consumption. That’s a fairly staggering number if you really think about it. According to an article by Nicholas Carr, the average avatar in Second Life has roughly the same carbon footprint as the average person in Brazil. That’s amazing to think about.

As we are all thinking about cutting gas consumption and hybrid cars – we absolutely have to think about greener information technologies. There are number of ways to do this. One of low hanging fruit items in data centers is getting the utilization percentage up because idling machines are still using power. The target should be 50% or higher utilization. That’s a scary and hard number to really hit. If a server fails there’s a lot less places to shift that processing so it means that your live intelligence about the processes running needs to be crystal clear because you need to be able to make solid decisions about how to organize your data centers.

Getting rid of a lot of the CRTs is one of the things that are helping on the power consumption issues. I know that this is something that a lot of companies have thought about. For example, I bought two 21 inch CRTs from Quicken Loans about 2 years ago because they had figured out that replacing all of the CRTs with LCDs would save enough power to justify itself over some number of years so they went out and bought 2 19 inch LCDs for every desk in the organization. That’s a few more than 5000 seats.

Microsoft RoundTable deviceTaking meetings via LiveMeeting verses taking a plane for an in person meeting saves a whole lot of power and cost. There are a lot of interesting technologies that are coming out in this area. For example the Microsoft RoundTable which is part of the Unified Communications Suite is amazing. It’s a speaker phone/camera that sits in the center of the table. Unlike typical video conferencing which gives you a static view of the room, the RoundTable gives you a dynamic 360 view of the room following the voice of the speaking person much like you would if you were sitting at the table and looking around. That makes sure that everyone involved is fully viewed and remote groups feel as if they are in the room or as close to it at technologically possible. It’s changed the way that meetings are done at Microsoft. There’s one team at Microsoft based out of Redmond that had a few members that are based throughout the rest of the country that has weekly conference call status meetings. It was remarkable once they started using the RoundTable. It turned out that none of the people that were remote had really been paying attention in the meetings. They were too busy doing email, IMing, hanging out on mute and brushing their teeth or whatever. Since their team switched over to using the RoundTables for the meetings, they are no longer able to “hide” during the meeting because it’s so much like they are actually in the room.

There are a ton of other really simple common sense things that we can do. I’d love to hear your ideas.

BTW: Craig Mundie’s organization (Microsoft Research) now has a new Environmental Officer. 🙂 That’s pretty cool. Microsoft is taking green technology very seriously these days. I like that.

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