IT professionals are being called upon not only to make IT systems and work practices greener but also to harness the power of IT to address growing the environmental and social problems we face. IT professionals can make a difference by advancing green IT and embracing it in several areas of enterprise and personal activities, as highlighted in this special issue.
Interest in the design and implementation of green IT solutions has increased dramatically over the past few years. 1
A primary objective of such solutions has been to lower IT operational costs by reducing IT-related energy consumption, which also helps reduce carbon emissions. A main driver behind this green movement is IT's rapidly rising energy demands, owing to growing global adoption of computing services—in particular, of cloud computing and its data centers. A secondary driver quickly gaining momentum is the increasing evidence of the harmful effects of greenhouse gas (GHG)-induced climate change. 2
Although IT currently accounts for approximately 2 to 3 percent of GHG emissions, IT's carbon footprint is highly likely to increase as IT becomes more pervasive and the global population, especially in emerging countries, becomes more prosperous and adopts IT-enabled lifestyles. Therefore, there's a strong case to be made for the accelerated development and adoption of green-IT solutions. These initiatives are critical for IT professionals and managers, not only to save money and reduce environmental and other business risks, but also to strategically position organizations to meet customers' future growth needs economically, environmentally, and socially.
Each stage of a computer's life—from production to use to disposal—presents environmental problems. Green IT helps by addressing issues related to energy efficiency, air and water pollution, e-waste, recycling, and reuse. However, it also covers business-related concerns, such as infrastructure costs, legal compliance and associated risk reduction, data center and product design, server virtualization, supply chains, manufacturing, and software development. Consequently, recognizing and exploiting opportunities for green IT solutions throughout the IT value chain can create business value by lowering costs and increasing benefits associated with the minimization of IT's environmental impact.
However, there's an important distinction to make within the green IT domain. Narrowly put, the "greening of IT" focuses on the reengineering of IT products and processes to improve energy efficiency, maximize use, meet compliance requirements, and reduce GHG emissions while creating business value. Currently, most green IT initiatives focus on this greening of IT. 3
A broader concept is "greening by IT," which implements IT-enabled solutions that are more focused on innovations in IT services—in fact, such solutions are sometimes referred to as "sustainable IT services." This more market-facing concept focuses on customer and societal value and is thus viewed as a more strategic approach. 4
IT professionals are now being called upon not only to make IT systems and work practices greener but also to harness the power of IT to address the growing environmental and social problems we face. We can make a difference by advancing green IT and embracing it in several areas of enterprise and personal activities, as highlighted in this issue. (Also see the 2011 Jan./Feb. issue on green IT. 5
The five theme articles in this issue provide a glimpse of current developments in green IT. The first article, "Enabling Green IT through Energy-Aware Software," by Manuj Sabharwal, Abhishek Agrawal, and Grace Metri, presents software methodologies and designs that can be used to improve the energy efficiency of application software and middleware. The authors argue that green-IT infrastructure is incomplete without energy-aware software, which plays an important role in overall IT-platform energy efficiency. The article illustrates multiple case studies on real-world applications to highlight ways in which application software leads to energy inefficiencies, outlining how to diagnose such problems and discussing energy-efficient software methodologies.
The next article explores the relationship between cloud and green computing and presents a green cloud framework. "A Green Software Development Life Cycle for Cloud Computing," by Nitin Singh Chauhan, and Ashutosh Saxena, takes a holistic view of the cloud environment, mapping energy-saving opportunities to various cloud components and presenting an energy-aware software development life cycle (SDLC) for cloud applications. The authors' green cloud framework emphasizes the need to focus on the energy-efficiency potential afforded within the SDLC. Their approach calls for early intervention in the software development process to ensure maximum energy efficiency. It also calls for standards, measurement methods, and monitoring throughout the IT system to ensure the desired performance is obtained.
The next article, "The US Government's Evolving Role in IT Energy Management," by Carol Pollard, provides a critical overview of the evolving role of government and private sectors in encouraging green initiatives across the US. The focus is on the mitigation of negative effects from the rapid growth in IT-related energy use. The article also provides a useful review of the key legal and regulatory initiatives of the US government and points out that IT organizations must be proactive in their management and optimization of natural-resource consumption and output.
Green technologies and government norms and policies alone won't yield great success in improving our environmental sustainability. Creating green awareness, particularly among the young generation through educational programs, will also be crucial. "Creating Green Awareness Using IT: The Case of Hong Kong," by Wai-Ming To, Andy Chung, and Linda Lai, illustrates some of the initiatives that are implemented in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China. The initiatives use cloud technologies, online interactive games, competitions, and physical equipment to raise green awareness among high school students.
Finally, it's also necessary to assess and measure the effect of green IT. In "A Holistic Impact-Assessment of Green ICT," Anand Raju, Sven Lindmark, Simon Delaere, and Pieter Ballon contextualize, analyze, and measure the effects of green IT using a holistic impact-assessment framework that incorporates policy, standardization, and industrial issues, focusing on the direct and indirect impacts of green ICT use and implementation. The authors present a detailed use case of how on-demand activation of cellular networks can lower the IT system's energy footprint.
Triggered by the imminent introduction of more taxes and regulations and the public's growing interest in green businesses, there will be a major increase in the demand for green IT products and solutions in the near future. Soon, greening of and by IT won't just be an option—it will be a necessity. The articles in the special issue represent a transitional bridging of the greening-of- and greening-by-IT dimensions. Although most of the articles focus on the former, an emerging theme evident here is that green IT technologies should look to solve problems that are beyond the typical IT organization's sphere of influence.
IT now has a new role to play—helping to create a greener, more sustainable environment while offering economic benefits and social value. IT professionals, educators, researchers, and businesses can make a difference by harnessing the power of IT to create a sustainable environment for the benefit of current and future generations.
is the director of BRITE Professional Services, Australia, and an adjunct professor at the University of Western Sydney. His research interests include green IT, cloud computing, IT in emerging markets, and Web 2.0 and 3.0. He's a corporate trainer and consultant and co-editor of a new book, Harnessing Green IT: Principles and Practices
(Wiley-IEEE, 2012). He's an associate editor in chief of IT Professional
, editor of Computer
, member of the CS Cloud Computing Special Technical Community, and a fellow of the Australian Computer Society. Contact him at email@example.com.
is an assistant professor at the Institute for Development & Research in Banking Technology, India. His research interests are mainly located at the interface between technological and business perspectives. He is a co-editor of the book Harnessing Green IT: Principles & Practices
(Wiley-IEEE, 2012). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert R. Harmon
is professor of marketing and technology management and director of the Strategic Marketing Area in the School of Business at Portland State University. His research interests are cloud-based sustainable IT services and service transition strategies for manufacturing-based economies and organizations. Harmon received his PhD in marketing and information systems from Arizona State University. Contact him at email@example.com.
holds a senior position at IBM India and is an industry professional, quality assurance professional, writer, and conference speaker. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.