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 Growth Ahead for Field of Green Computing

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As Demirkan sees it, the services-oriented business models that companies can create with these technologies will, in general, help the larger services-based economy function more efficiently.

“Traditional information technology has always been seen as a cost center, and companies are trying to make it a profit center with cloud computing and SaaS,” Demirkan said. “I think it will make it more service oriented and more sustainable.”

Demirkan believes the impact will be felt not just within a company’s IT department, but across and between companies, because these technologies will change how organizations think about their businesses, work with their suppliers and other partners, and even conduct their marketing programs.

Chong goes even further, introducing a notion that he calls “computing for sustainability,” which involves using computation or embedded systems to create technologies such as intelligent traffic systems or smart power meters that provide direct environmental and social benefits. There are a number of startups in this area, but it is brand new. “That field is wide open,” he said.

Developing new curriculum

While green or sustainable practices may infuse IT jobs in the coming years, academic coursework and other training opportunities are not easy to come by.

“Almost every school is trying to figure out how to put this in the curriculum,” Demirkan said.

At UCSB, Chong has taught green computing from a systems perspective. His course on this topic draws from multiple disciplines such as mechanical engineering, industrial ecology, and economics to explore energy-efficient system designs. Chong also believes it is important to learn how to perform a lifecycle analysis of these systems that evaluates the carbon footprint of manufacturing, use, and disposal of each design. The “industrial ecology” angle is important, he said, and goes hand in hand with corporate needs to place IT within the framework of government mandates for sustainability and to develop and position their companies’ products to appeal to customers who want their products to have green attributes.

Because few college courses in green IT are available currently, Chong suggests that those wanting an academic background in the field consider industrial ecology, which does exist as a degree or set of courses in some schools. Another approach might be to combine IT and environmental coursework to create a personalized, interdisciplinary degree.

For those who want some specialized green training to add to their professional IT credentials, computing organizations are beginning to introduce training and certificate programs.

Murugesan, for example, has developed a course in Green IT and sustainability that is offered in Singapore by the Global Science and Technology Forum. The program is designed to help IT professionals learn how to develop strategies for implementing green IT systems and applications for their companies. It offers an intense, three-day course that leads to green IT certificates at the associate, specialist or professional levels.

Murugesan expects countries in the European Union will begin to introduce training programs for IT professionals fairly quickly. The region has produced laws, standards initiatives, and voluntary programs that are motivating businesses to implement green practices.

The United Kingdom has begun to do this. Today, BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, offers certificates in green IT, the EU code of conduct on data centers, and energy and cost management in data centers. Training for these credentials is available from certified organizations in Australia, India, and the UK.

Additional resources

Murugesan has compiled a list of green IT resources, which was published in the May 2011 issue of the Computer Society’s Computing Now. To access the list, go to http://www.computer.org/portal/web/computingnow/0511/links.

For those seeking additional information, IEEE journals and conferences can provide a wealth of information. Chong suggests that IT professionals attend the International Green Computing Conference, which is co-sponsored by the IEEE Computer Society. The next event will be held in June 2012 in San Jose, California. For more information, go to http://www.green-conf.org/.

Computer Society volunteers have also formed a Special Technical Community on Sustainable Computing. To join its Facebook group, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/STC.Sustainable.Computing/. CW (12 October, 2011)

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