IT intelligence: Green software, part 2

Robin Fisk looks to the future in the last of his series on greener IT.

Green is firmly on the IT industry's radar for 2008. It has embraced the quest for greenness with youthful enthusiasm, dreaming up creative ways to minimise power consumption, reduce the environmental impact of manufacture and maximise the use of computing resources. Here are two ideas that might make the future more green.

In a recent lecture at the Royal Society, Professor Andy Hopper proposed that computing power should be moved away from desktops in scattered data centres and out to centralised 'server farms' close to wind farms. His point was that if it is easier to transmit data over long distances than it is to transmit power, then locating servers near the power source makes sense.

Another idea is that, instead of using often over-specified desktop PCs, we should revert to lighter, more efficient desktop machines that act as terminals. Back to the future, anyone?

PC manufacturing has used huge resources to build the machines we use. A report in 2004 found that making a PC requires 10 times the weight of the product in chemicals and fossil fuels. Taiwanese manufacturer Asus has developed the EcoBook laptop, which it says is "the world's first notebook to use bamboo panelling", instead of the traditional plastic. Bamboo is a fast-growing, sustainable material. "The EcoBook is built according to environmentally friendly principles, reconciling the world's reliance on computers with the need to preserve the earth," says Asus. Wow.

As always, separating the hype from the reality is key here, but the good news is that momentum towards a greener IT industry seems unstoppable. The financial costs of greener IT may be higher, but the challenge for our sector is deciding whether we can afford to ignore it.

- Robin Fisk is managing director of software company Fisk Brett.

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