Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 17/10/2006 Solar power is the new corporate fish tank. Where once I sat in foyers watching fat carp idly float past the receptionist's head — I really must put more water with it — I'm now liable to be distracted by some display proudly clocking up the kilowatt-hours generated by a bunch of photovoltaic cells on the roof.

Tuesday 17/10/2006

Solar power is the new corporate fish tank. Where once I sat in foyers watching fat carp idly float past the receptionist's head — I really must put more water with it — I'm now liable to be distracted by some display proudly clocking up the kilowatt-hours generated by a bunch of photovoltaic cells on the roof.

Meh. What I think about that is mostly unprintable: put up the results of your company's last energy audit, together with the resultant moves to increase efficiency and reduce waste, and I'll be impressed. But how many facilities managers know how many kilowatt hours each employee uses, let alone 10 ways to reduce that without impacting on working practices?

Innovative thinking has yet to scratch the surface here. There are so many ideas to explore: a desk job encourages indolence and spreading waistline — so have some leg-powered dynamos installed beneath the desk. Fitter workers, brighter screens, lower bills, cooler planet. How many reasons do you need?

Likewise, server design has a long way to go before I'll start to believe all these protestations of enhanced efficiency. For example: hard disk drives have electric motors, which are powered via at least eight conversion and distribution stages between them and the rotating machines in the power station. This is not good. Better by far to couple all the hard-disk shafts together and run them from a common driver — which again can be the IT team peddling. Let's face it, they're normally the ones most in need of exercise.

As for the rest of the server electronics, there may be no way to reduce the power the processors, memory and IO circuits use, but you can at least provide it from a source much closer to the hardware. A system of on-board microgenerators, perhaps, fed by water piped in from a nearby stream — which might also provide relaxation and recreation for employees by a water slide, or perhaps some in-house trout fishing.

Or we may fruitfully return to the ideas of the 1950s, when every home was going to be powered by a soup-tin sized nuclear reactor. With the enhanced techniques the semiconductor industry has created to build micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) and other nano-technology marvels, it will now be possible to engineer chip-sized uranium fission devices. I know there'll be concerns about safety, but with WEEE and ROHS legislation already in place for other environmental hazards, company culture and practice is ready for the next step. That's before the benefits of increased attention to detail and concentration which will naturally flow from the threat of meltdown, should an engineer make a mistake while installing, servicing or managing a nuclear-powered server.

I hear you, Dell, HP and IBM, when you talk about increased energy efficiency in IT. But until you start to come up with truly innovative ideas like those listed above, I'm not going to believe you.

 

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