What is green computing? | Definition from TechTarget – TechTarget

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Green computing, also known as green technology, is the use of computers and other computing devices and equipment in energy-efficient and eco-friendly ways. Organizations that use green computing methods often deploy energy-efficient central processing units (CPUs), servers, peripherals, power systems and other IT equipment. They also focus on reducing resource use and properly disposing of electronic waste.
In many organizations, green computing is a key part of environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives that focus on the adoption of sustainable and ethical business practices. It also contributes to broader business sustainability efforts, which aim to position companies for ongoing success based on responsible corporate management and strategies.
Saving money on energy and IT costs is one driving factor for green computing approaches. Government regulations related to energy conservation also drive green efforts. Concern about climate change, combined with internal and external pressure to be environmentally responsible, is a third factor behind the green computing movement.
IT managers typically focus energy efficiency efforts on data centers, as well as separate equipment rooms and data storage areas that use significant amounts of energy or are affected by its use. For example, upgrading IT systems can help by replacing older equipment that often uses more energy and puts out more heat than newer technologies. In addition, hot and cold aisle setups group together data center assets based on energy consumption and temperature output, optimizing the efficiency of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
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The green computing strategies of companies can also include the following actions, both in and beyond the data center:
The key mission of green computing is to reduce energy consumption. This not only cuts energy costs for organizations, but it also reduces carbon footprints, particularly of IT assets. In addition to the cost savings, green approaches to computing can help organizations on regulatory compliance and potentially give them a marketing edge over competitors with both customers and investors.
The environmental impact of IT components is important to consider in the data center design process. Advances in energy management and energy conservation have made IT systems and other computing resources highly energy-efficient. Green design of data centers, office space and other facilities that consume high amounts of energy has become a key part of new construction and building upgrades to make them more environmentally sustainable.
That includes the use of energy-efficient HVAC, power and lighting systems, and a variety of ancillary equipment. For example, many data center components have a sleep mode that reduces power use or completely shuts down a system during times of low or no use. Also, most IT equipment vendors support green manufacturing practices. The U.S. government’s Energy Star logo is an important metric when selecting IT equipment and data center elements.
Another important consideration with green computing and the related concept of green IT is their potential to reduce an organization’s use of fossil fuels. This helps lower the amount of pollution released into the atmosphere and water sources — such reduced emissions have been shown to have positive effects on weather, air pollution and water quality.
While green computing has many benefits, not every organization will embrace the changes needed to become truly green. Challenges that organizations can face on green computing initiatives include the following:
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The following is a list of ways to increase green computing and energy efficiency in data centers and other IT facilities:
IT leaders should also explain the importance of green data centers and other green computing measures to senior management and make sure to get their support for an initiative. Corporate policies that stress energy conservation and the use of energy-efficient equipment can then be established to formalize the efforts.
Data centers came into their own as major consumers of electricity in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With the advent of large processing systems, such as mainframes, as well as the many different peripheral devices associated with them, data centers grew in both size and energy usage.
At that time, data center managers thought little, if at all, about environmental concerns. Printers generated mountains of paper, much of which was discarded in dumpsters — creating large amounts of trash and the potential for data security issues due to dumpster diving by attackers. Water was used to cool large mainframes, especially those made by IBM, which increased water usage by companies.
As the computing industry grew, IT vendors designed smaller and faster systems, but the notion of green technology didn’t arise until 1992 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the Energy Star program to promote energy efficiency in computing hardware and various other types of products. Buying IT equipment with the Energy Star label meant that it would save electricity and have less of an environmental impact overall.
Now run jointly by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy, the voluntary program has been widely implemented by computer manufacturers and other device makers. The Energy Star label is common on IT equipment, especially for laptop computers and displays. Many European and Asian countries have also implemented similar programs.
The EPA later also funded the development of an environmental standard for computers and other electronic products, plus a tool for assessing compliance with the standard. In 2006, the agency issued a grant to what’s now known as the Global Electronics Council (GEC) to create a registry of products that meet the criteria of the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) standard. The GEC continues to manage the EPEAT registry and “ecolabel,” which now covers end-user computers and displays, mobile phones, servers, networking equipment, imaging devices and other non-IT products.
Organizations can use EPEAT to identify “environmentally preferable” technologies for purchases, according to the EPA. For example, the Federal Acquisition Regulation, which applies to all U.S. government agencies, mandates that 95% of the electronic products procured by them are listed on the EPEAT registry.
As the use of cloud services grew, cloud platform vendors built new data centers with more of an emphasis on energy efficiency, reduction of emissions and overall sustainability. The environmentally friendly capabilities of a green cloud approach can be another advantage of moving to the cloud, in addition to savings on equipment costs and data center space.
In recent years, additional standards have been developed that provide specifications and benchmarking metrics applicable to green computing. For example, the International Organization for Standardization, a global standards organization commonly known as ISO, has several families of standards that can be used in planning and managing green computing initiatives. That includes ISO 14000 for environmental management systems, ISO 50001 for energy management systems, the companion ISO 50002 for energy audits and ISO/IEC 33000, an IT process assessment standard developed by a joint technical committee set up by ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission.
The potential benefits of green computing are well documented overall, and the current trend is for IT teams to continue deploying green computing technology wherever possible.
Find out more about green computing best practices and how to put them into practice.
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