IPv6: Towards a Greener Internet

As you probably know by now, we’re very interested in the idea of what might constitute a green API or protocol, so I was very interested when I received a link via twitter from @Straxus (Ryan Slobojan).

The Aon Scéal? (That’s Any News in Gaelic) blog by Alastrain McKinstry points to this piece by Yves Poppe which argues that IPv6 could save 300 Megawatts.

Easy to forget that most mobile devices used by Time Square revelers were behind IPv4 NAT’s and that always on applications such as Instant Messaging, Push e-mail, VoIP or location based services tend to be electricity guzzlers. It so happens that applications that we want always to be reachable have to keep sending periodic keepalive messages to keep the NAT state active. Why is that so? The NAT has an inactivity timer whereby, if no data is sent from your mobile for a certain time interval, the public port will be assigned to another device.

You cannot blame the NAT for this inconvenience, after all, its role in live is to redistribute the same public addresses over and over; if it detects you stopped using the connection for a little while, too bad, you lose the routable address and it goes to someone else. And when a next burst of data communication comes, guess what? It doesn’t find you anymore. Just think of a situation we would loose our cell phone number every time it is not in use and get a new one reassigned each time.

Nokia carried out the original study. Good work Nokia researcher guys! Another way of looking at the saved energy, which I think we’d all vote for, is potentially longer battery life of our mobile access devices. I am sure the folks at Nortel, who are so enthusiastically driving the green agenda for competitive advantage, would be interested in this research, and quite honestly its one of the first arguments I have heard that makes me think ah yes IPv6 lets pull the trigger. There are some good skeptical arguments in the comments here, but on balance I can definitely see the value of the initial research. Its surely worth further study.

While writing this article I also came across the rather excellent Green IT/Broadband blog. The author clearly believes in our Bit Miles concept, even if he doesn’t call it that.

Governments around the world are wrestling with the challenge of how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The current preferred approaches are to impose “carbon” taxes and implement various forms of cap and trade or carbon offset systems. However another approach to help reduce carbon emission is to “reward” those who reduce their carbon footprint rather than imposing draconian taxes or dubious cap and trade systems. It is estimated that consumers control or influence over 60% of all CO2 emissions. As such, one possible reward system of trading “bits and bandwidth for carbon” is to provide homeowners with free fiber to the home or free wireless products and other electronic services such as ebooks and eMovies if they agree to pay a premium on their energy consumption which will encourage them to reduce emissions by turning down the thermostat or using public transportation. Not only does the consumer benefit, but this business model also provides new revenue opportunities for network operators, optical equipment manufacturers, and eCommerce application providers.

European IPv6 Day, hosted by the EU is on the 30th May. Come to think about it the guy I should talk to about green IP is Vint Cerf of Google.


McAfee goes Green in Vegas!

So it appears you can go green in Vegas, beyond all my cynicism and that of others. I just came across some really interesting news from McAfee about its approach to greener conferences in that benighted location.

“Greening Kickoff,” an innovative project to minimize, rigorously measure and offset the environmental impact of a large corporate event in Las Vegas. The project, which focused on McAfee’s annual Sales Kickoff meeting as a pilot effort, reduced non-air travel carbon emissions by 16% while offsetting the remaining 1,865 metric tons of carbon emissions through support of reforestation projects.

I am not a big fan of offsetting, but I am a fan of reforestation. What I particularly like about McAfee’s approach here is that its not about warm and fuzzies, but real measurement and monitoring. It brought in a third party, ICF International, to audit its activities. The results? McAfee claims to reduced the event’s carbon footprint by 16% of its total non-air travel emissions. What else?

  • 25 metric tons saved by facilitating the sharing of rooms by participants
  • 3.2 metric tons and 56,357 gallons of water saved through participation in the hotel’s towel and sheet reuse program
  • 0.5 metric tons saved by providing a shuttle for airport and event transfers rather than travel by individual taxicabs
  • 0.5 metric tons saved by eliminating bottled water and providing tap water only
  • The carbon footprint of the overall event was approximately 1,856 metric tons of CO2, or 1.03 metric tons of CO2 per event attendee
  • 90% of the event’s carbon footprint resulted from air travel to and from the event
  • Excluding air travel, of the remaining 10% of the event’s carbon footprint, the breakdown was as follows: food (35%), hotel rooms (33%), amenities (19%), facility use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) (5%), solid waste (4%) and the event’s conference center (3%)

Well done McAfee- but I have to say I am really disappointed I didn’t come across this earlier. It would have been amazing to have someone come to talk to our free EnergyCamp unconference on Monday about the apppoach – particularly given the Vegas angle.


Chasing AMEE, EdenBee and the Carbon Account

As I am sure you all know by now Greenmonk is a fan of Amee, the carbon caculator’s carbon calculator – or “the World’s Energy Meter” as it styles itself. AMEE is a back end service for carbon data, with the data freely available under a CreativeCommons Attribution and Share-Alike license. Credible? Tesco, the world’s second biggest retailer, and DEFRA, the UK’s EPA, are both heavily involved. AMEE an Exemplary Open Service. And being an environmental API as well, its an Exemplary GreenMonk Service.

I realised this morning, having been invited to an interesting new social networking service called EdenBee, that I now basically use AMEE as a yes or no. If someone approaches me with news of something that has a carbon calculator that isn’t AMEE-based my default is pretty much total lack of interest. Nice related conversation here.

Later in the day someone pinged me to look at The Carbon Account.  Like EdenBee it passes the AMEE-test. I will wait until people start inviting me before I check it out though.Nice to see the “ingredients” listed – that is, what open source technologies support the site.

The only thing AMEE needs to fix is the URL. Come on guys you’re the world’s electricity meter…


Thoughts on Green SOA: a work in progress

Yesterday at IBM’s SOA Impact 2008 show in Las Vegas (my favorite eco-city) I gave my Green SOA stump pitch. Its still a work in progress, and fortunately perhaps the number of delegates was pretty low. SOA for Dummies across the hall on the other hand was packed.

What is service oriented architecture, and why is Greenmonk so dorky today? Good questions both. SOA is an approach to software development that should enable far greater flexibility than normal.  Business and technical interfaces are standardised, and stored in libraries so that services can be reused, or changed as required by the business.

Why is Greenmonk so dorky? Well, you can’t fight your nature, now can you?

My argument at the event is basically that if SOA is a means to better alignment between IT and the business, then we should also drive sustainability into the mix. Componentising services gives you freedom to leave, for example, potentially allowing you to swap a provider out for a greener, or more importantly from a bottom line perspective, more energy efficient service.

The new frontier in compliance is environmental regulations and mandates. South Korea, as I found out yesterday, already has a carbon added tax. I have written about REACH , the EU chemical reporting standard before. One quote I used, which I find pretty striking given it comes from a US oilman (not exactly a community full of bleeding heart liberals):

“The U.S. needs a strong, consistent and mandatory national framework to manage carbon emissions. One that is unencumbered by diverging state and regional initiatives. Without this framework, rising public concern over climate change threatens our energy security by contributing to further access restrictions.”

Jim Mulva, Chairman & CEO, ConocoPhillips

Environmental compliance is going to cost companies hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars over the next few years. My partner in crime at the event is a guy called Jim Bitonti, who presented about his company Evergreen Energy, its C-Lock application and partnership with IBM called GreenCert. The application, a sophisticated distributed app for greenhouse gas measurement, monitoring and management is built end to end on IBM middleware, so it was not surprising IBM asked me to collaborate with him. But regardless of platform Jim knows his stuff, and is solidly pragmatic about the opportunities and limitations of environmental compliance. I would like to see a collaboration with AMEE, and will hopefully broker a meeting between Gavin and C-Lock next week.

I realise now that I need to make the pitch more technical for n audience of SOA folks. But all in all it was a good learning experience, and I am certainly glad IBM realizes the importance of Green SOA, even if its customers are yet to catch on.


Green is a form of Lean

Many of us are thinking through the implications of greener supply chains.

Al has been giving it some lately, for example, with his thoughts on the Carbon Added Tax. Over at SAP Research Andreas Vogel is leading the charge. IBM is doing some solid work here, as is BT. But we’re beginning to see a potential backlash, based on the Greens are Dreamers frame. The argument is that green thinking and approaches will be jettisoned as economic conditions toughen. But is that necessarily the case? Jason Busch from SpendMatters nails it in a post entitled How Will Green / Sustainable Procurement Play in a Recession?

While it would be easy to dismiss green and sustainable procurement practices as a luxury for companies to invest in when times are good, I actually believe that they could help organizations to buoy their top lines and pull up from a spiraling downturn or period of contraction. Whether it’s better marketing the benefits of green supplier practices to customers to spur pent-up demand or making investments in supplier development initiatives which reduce unnecessary packaging, supplier-focused sustainability initiatives have the potential to drive sales and reduce cost.”

I hold a similar line: it seems daft to argue, as the Bush Administration repeatedly has, that efficiency efforts harm economies. Efficiency can help you cut cost, even if (especially if?) its energy costs we’re talking about. Jason gets some great comments on his post. For actionable advice why not try Paul Gooch’s suggestion:

A former employer of mine ran an internal initiative called WRAP…waste reduction always pays. This applies as much to purchasing as any functional activity. The benefits go straight to the bottom line, and in the process you reduce your energy usage, carbon footprint, etc

But Lisa Reisman really distills the arguments to 100% proof: “green is a form of lean”. Thinking about carbon consumption is not just protectionist sabre-rattling: its an efficiency argument. It strikes me at the moment many economists and business commentators just aren’t thinking through their positions. We’re seeing rhetoric as the primary argument. Greens are luddites. Localisation means a return to the stone age. And so on. Green is a form of lean.

The implications for software and services companies are clear – keep investing in Green, recession or not. You can always change your marketing to read “cost-cutting”. If however you’re relying on a return to abundance as a primary planning assumption you could be in major trouble. Spend matters green or not.


On CES, Greening, and Gizmodo as Eco-Pranksters


Its a laudable goal CeBIT would begin the long road to greening by fully supporting the Climate Savers Computing Initiative. But I should point out the power used at trade shows is just absurd – all those banks of screens talking to nobody in particular.

Should we should reconsider the Gizmodo guys as eco-pranksters (have you seen the video, where all the huge screens start turning off, one after another? Maybe they should join the Green Forge.) I still don’t really understand why so much anger was directed at Gizmodo, people talking about lawsuits and so on. Annoying yes. Business threatening- come on people, get some perspective.


Its Not The Houses That Are Smart Its The People

Probably the most interesting recent news GreenMonk has seen comes from a research project at the US Department of Energy, reported in Computerworld: Pilot program puts “smart” houses on network that adjusts energy use to pricing.

The technology in play included wireless technologies, broadband connections and back-end systems that use a Web-enabled service-oriented architecture for linking disparate information systems.

The intent of the “intelligent smart-power grid” is to give consumers the ability to conserve energy with systems that automatically adjust to pricing. There are a number of ways in which that might work, and here’s one: In the event of a heavy electric demand period that is threatening a power outage, a clothes drier embedded with a controller could receive a signal that prompts it to turn off the drying element for a short period.

IBM was involved in the project, and its good to see Big Blue doing something that affects consumer behaviour. What I find fascinating though is not the automation – its the fact that if people have better access to information, they will adjust their behaviours accordingly. Electricity meters shouldn’t be down in the basement.

According to ARS Technica:

In effect, such technologies make both the machines and their human owners into members of what the lab calls “a collaborative, distributed, commerce-driven ‘society'”—some of the same terms used to describe the many “Web 2.0” destinations. In this case, though, the purpose isn’t to create the Internet’s most tech-savvy collection of minds (see the Ars OpenForum for that) but to create a “shock absorber” for the national power grid; saving money for consumers is simply a byproduct of that process.

There is an extremely cool product out there which makes electricity use manifest – the Wattson. They have a cool slogan too- DIY Kyoto.

People are perfectly capable of making intelligent, well-formed decisions, if they have the relevant tools. Bringing meters out into the open is going to be a big part of the changes societies make over the next few years. I love a quote from the Guardian story:

“Our kids are saying that they are helping to stop the ice caps melting,” she said.

My little boy is only two years old, so perhaps I am not best equipped to comment yet, but as I understand it having kids pester their parents to turn off lights – usually only happens once they have left home and are paying the bills…

special thanks to Mike Gunderloy, who sent me a link to this story through Twitter, saying it was “greenmonky”. he was right.


On Small Changes, Small Cars, Tax and Pollution

It’s fair to say that encouraging people to change their behaviour in small ways can have a big impact – cumulatively – on reducing carbon footprints and environmental impact in the long-term.

But how Governments and authorities manage and cajole the public to change personal behaviour can be a problematic process – and something that’s difficult to get right. One obvious avenue available is to incentivise change by introducing tax-breaks on ‘environmentally friendly’ products and services, and hiking tax on high-polluters. That seems to be the idea behind planned changes to the Congestion charge policy in London, which – rightly or wrongly – from next year, is being turned into an environmental charge based on carbon dioxide emissions from cars.

You can read more about it in detail here, but in short, the plan is that whereas currently nearly everyone pays £8 per day, by 2009, cars which emit more than 225 g/km of CO2 will be charged £25 ($50) a day to drive into central London. Ouch. But the flip side – the ‘tax-break’ – is that if you drive a car that emits less than 120g/km of CO2, then access is free. The idea is to move people from gas-guzzlers to eco-friendly fuel-sippers, and thus see CO2 levels in the city fall. Nothing wrong with that you might think, but there’s a potential flaw…

Sales of these small, ‘sub-120g/km’ cars are soaring across the south-east of England. A new report by CEBR (report not available openly) suggests that this ‘environmentally-driven’ policy could actually end up causing CO2 levels to rise. That’s because it’s predicted the changed system will have a net result of up to 10,000 extra cars a day entering central London. And that can only lead to an increase in congestion, and a slow down in traffic speeds. As anyone who understands the internal combustion process will tell you, the problem with (even highly efficient, and small) engines, is that they’re at their least efficient when the car is sat stationary or moving at low speeds. So despite the fact that most of these additional cars will be classified as ‘environmentally friendly’ and driving around congestion charge-free, the extra traffic and congestion they create could mean CO2 levels actually rise.

Kit like this will unsurprisingly fall into the £25-a-day bracket come next year

You will, doubtless, be surprised to hear that kit like this will cost £25-a-day to drive in central London come next year…

Whether the report’s predictions prove true, only time will tell. One potential caveat to consider is that it was commissioned by Land Rover – who aren’t exactly known for their small cars (in fact, every vehicle they currently sell falls into the £25-a-day category). In the auto-industry, nothing is ever quite as black and white as it first seems… but there’s plenty of support for it’s predictions in the form of academics for instance, who have no reason for bias.

The big questions it begs, is how governments, authorities and legislators drive a process of adoption for new, more environmentally friendly products and technologies, without having the entire process back-fire on them at ground level? The message they’re putting out to people here is ‘do this, and because you’re helping save the planet, we’ll reward you’ – but in fact, that ‘reward’ might end up having quite the opposite effect on the planet’s health. Don’t ‘reward’ people’s for changing their behaviour, and they’ve no reason to change. So the carrot-stick approach is difficult. I suspect this policy might go down in history as being one of those top-down processes, that on paper looked great – but which back-fired terribly on the ground by having precisely the opposite impact to what was originally intended. Another case which will show the need for grass-roots level innovation and adoption, rather than top-down? I think so.


BT in perpetual motion: Living Lightly and SMB greening

BT is on a roll at the moment. Shame we can’t package its perpetual green drumbeat as perpetual motion. Seriously- what other major FTSE company is doing so much to educate different sectors on greening issues?

A couple of days ago the firm was announcing the results of an Economist Intelligence Unit study it sponsored into corporate sustainability. Now BT informs me that its launched a new SMB program called Living Lightly. The simple but effective idea behind the slogan and campaign is that small firms can make a real difference to the national carbon footprint.

Its a core GreenMonk belief that small things add up (my favourite example is Google’s adwords revenues), and it seems BT is thinking the same thing:

“Small steps – when taken by a large number of individuals – make a big difference. With 4.3 million small businesses in the UK alone, the collective impact could be incredible.”

Amen to that.

At first glance the actions BT suggests look pretty self-serving:

  1. Take up conferencing
  2. Reduce unnecessary trips back to the office by using mobile communications technology
  3. Turn off office equipment at the end of the day
  4. Recycle
  5. Take-up flexible working

But as someone that has been to Lisbon and back this week for an IBM conference that could just as easily have been held in or around London, where the great majority European industry analysts seem to work, I think there is something to be said for looking at alternatives to travel. I am not alone- I heard the other day that PriceWaterhouseCoopers employees are now being asked to make personal steps to reduce their business travel.

Here are my own suggestions:

  1. Cycle to work
  2. Unplug your mobile phone chargers when its not in use
  3. Buy local services if at all possible

BT borrows heavily from the Pledgebank Model – Tell The World I Will Do It But Only If You Help with each pledge for sustainability growing the LiveLightly tree…

You on the move? “Drive more slowly – driving at 50mph uses 25% less fuel than 70mph.”

You at work? “Bring your own mug into work and don’t use paper or plastic cups.” What – why shouldn’t drink tea out of solidified petrol?

What can I say – this is goodness. Why do I big up BT so much? Why not- it should be encouraged to do more cool stuff.  In terms of using social software and quirky approaches BT is showing the way forward. Don’t hector- encourage. Green isn’t just for big companies. We all have to make a difference.


Greening the UK, carbon-busting through iGoogle

Google today gets all my love. They have just built a great interface and set of carbon-busting mashups, leveraging the AMEE back-end. You can calculate footprint, but also post videos through Sky about your own carbon-busting efforts.

According to AMEE:

Google’s implementation is based on the underlying Act on CO2 data provided by Defra and others. It makes some additional assumptions (based on data from the Energy Saving Trust) to get the number of questions down to a “manageable” few pages (specifically around appliances).

I am particularly pleased to report this initiative is driven by Google UK. sweet. Anyway- go check it out.