Carbon management dashboards and SOA's uncertain role in Green IT

Can SOA do more than help cut electricity consumption?

There's been plenty of discussion about 'Green IT' over the past year, but, as far as I can tell, there has been little discussion about SOA's role in all this. It can be assumed that as data centers are consolidated and streamlined, SOA methodologies will be employed to play some type of supporting role in reducing duplication of IT assets and functional teams.

Is there a bigger role for SOA than helping to cut electricity consumption?

However, no one is going to go to SOA for the sole purpose of greening their IT. And the subject of SOA probably isn't going to come up on top of the list in Green IT discussions. Green IT -- and a greener business -- may be a byproduct of SOA, but will probably never be the reason for SOA. The goals of SOA are business agility and flexibility -- not reducing carbon footprints.

The bottom line for SOA's role in Green IT, as seen by most observers, is playing some type of supporting role in cutting electricity consumption.

However, Network World's Frank Dzubeck has attempted to provide dollars-and-cents justification for SOA as a Green IT enabler. Frank just ran a piece on how SOA can play a foundational role in not just Green IT, but the overall "greening" of today's corporations.

Frank suggests that the tools and processes that go into SOA can be applied to supporting a "carbon management" dashboard console, linked to key performance indicators, that track and account for carbon credits the organization is earning as a result of conservation efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon credits are almost as good as currency, and can then be sold or traded in a global marketplace setting.

But if carbon management dashboards don't take off, where will SOA fit into Green IT? Should it be a bigger part of Green IT considerations? Dave Linthicum recently took a crack at this question, noting that "millions of dollars are tossed away everyday on wasted motion in the world of business…products that require more resources than they should during the manufacturing process, excessive use of the transportation and shipping systems, and of course the continued use of too much paper." SOA better automates and streamlines processes, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing waste.

Participants in the BriefingsDirect SOA Insights panels also attempted to connect the SOA dots to Green IT in a discussion held back in the fall, and agreed to disagree on exactly how SOA fits into Green IT scenarios. Jim Kobelius observed that SOA "reduces the physical footprint of the services and applications that we deploy out to the mesh or the fabric."

However, Niel Macehiter observed that "organizations are not going to be looking at SOA as the first step in reducing their Green footprint. It's going to be about server and storage consolidation to reduce the power consumption, provide more efficient cooling, and management approaches to ensure that servers aren’t running when they don’t need to be. That’s going to give them much bigger Green bang for the buck." I chimed in that perhaps we need to take a closer look at how much energy and resources IT is actually saving society in the long run -- not just energy used.