[ Johannesburg, 12 June 2009 ] - International governments are using the Kyoto Protocol to enforce stringent energy usage laws on companies and SA is no exception.
IBM has rolled out a green solution that uses Lean Six Sigma (LSS) methodologies to monitor and analyse energy consumption. This was announced during the ITWeb Lean Six Sigma conference, held in Sandton, yesterday.
Last week, the South African government released the draft Taxation Amendment Bill 2009, which proposes that businesses will see tax reduction incentives for energy saving in line with carbon emission regulations. Businesses will have to submit substantial proof of energy savings to the National Energy Efficiency Agency.
Currently, SA ranks in 12th position as the one of the top offenders of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. SA contributes 65% of Africa's total emissions.
As part of the Smarter Planet initiative spearheaded by IBM, the global IT giant spent two years developing a solution that helps companies monitor and reduce carbon emissions.
Niall Brady, Green Sigma worldwide technical development manager at IBM, said at the conference that the solution has modified LSS principles into a power management analysis solution.
“The green agenda is gaining momentum all over the world. The UK government is rolling out energy efficiency regulations, forcing companies to report on their carbon position and then to prove year-on-year reductions in carbon emissions.”
Cost is key
Brady pointed out that businesses tend to be far removed from energy awareness around IT, until they notice cost savings stemming from the methodology, especially in tough financial times.
“Things have changed, companies are trying to survive and energy saving and cost is key to that. In the context of energy usage, businesses need to identify opportunities through processes where they can make potential savings. The green Six Sigma management system allows a business to feel confident that its energy is under control and can see benefits through LSS principles.
“Companies coming from a position of complete ignorance are moving to a complete understanding using the solution, and it has strong return on IT investments. Typically the roll-out of the programme will take six months to see a return on investment.”
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I.B.M. to Help Clients Fight Cost and Complexity
In 2000, the Linux operating system was a hot technology, but it had not spread much beyond scientists, researchers and computer programmers. Then I.B.M. declared that it would back Linux with investment, research and marketing, and the technology moved swiftly into the corporate mainstream.
The same thing happened with the personal computer in the early 1980s, when I.B.M. endorsed that upstart technology and entered the market.
Starting this week, I.B.M. is returning to the same playbook, introducing some initial products and services and a roadmap for its stable of corporate and government customers to comfortably embrace cloud computing.
Cloud computing — in which vast stores of information and processing resources can be tapped from afar, over the Internet, using a personal computer, cellphone or other device — holds great promise in the corporate market. The cloud model, analysts say, has the potential to cut the costs, complexity and headaches of technology for companies and government agencies.
Already, Amazon.com, Google and Salesforce.com, among others, offer cloud-based Web services to companies, including e-mail, computer storage and customer management software. But many big companies and government agencies have been reluctant to get on board because of traditional corporate-computing concerns like the security of data, reliability of service and regulatory compliance.
“I.B.M. knows how to do all of those things,” said Frank Gens, chief analyst for IDC, a technology research firm. “Its strategy is all about making cloud computing safe for enterprise customers.”
Even if I.B.M. succeeds in its bid to make cloud computing more palatable for big corporations, there is no guarantee that it will be the main beneficiary of the trend. After I.B.M. helped create the PC industry, lower-cost competitors ended up dominating the business.
In the cloud market, I.B.M. plans to take a tailored approach. The hardware and software in its cloud offerings will be meant for specific computing chores. Just as Google runs a computing cloud optimized for Internet search, I.B.M. will make bespoke clouds for computing workloads in business.
Its early cloud entries, to be announced on Monday, follow that model. One set of offerings is focused on streamlining the technology used by corporate software developers and testers, which can consume 30 percent or more of a company’s technology resources.
The second set is virtual desktop services, in which personal computer software, either from Microsoft or open-source alternatives, is run on remote servers and piped to simple desktop machines equipped with screens and keyboards. I.B.M. found in tests with clients that such virtual PCs, with little desktop processing or storage, can use 70 percent less power than conventional PCs and reduce technical support costs by up to 40 percent,.
Both the software development and desktop services are being offered as an integrated bundle of hardware and software for a cloud running inside a corporate or government data center, or as a cloud service hosted in an I.B.M. data center.
Other offerings are planned, I.B.M. executives said, including clouds fine-tuned for data storage, and clouds for business analytics, which is software that analyzes data for patterns of customer behavior, market trends and other potentially valuable information.
I.B.M. calls its approach of fine-tuning hardware and software for specific jobs “hybrid computing.” And it will open a Hybrid Computing Research lab later this year, inviting industry and university scientists to work cooperatively on new application-specific designs intended to improve performance by 100 to 1,000 times compared with today’s systems.
The fresh look at computer design is being prompted by the surge in Internet data, from social networking to smartphone applications to sensors monitoring food shipments and electrical use. By 2011, IDC estimates, there will be one trillion Internet-connected devices, up from 500 million in 2006.
“This huge explosion of data is driving a movement to design systems around workloads because it is the only way to deliver the computation needed, and it’s far more energy-efficient,” said Kunle Olukotun, a computer scientist at Stanford.
I.B.M. had an initiative, begun in early 2008, called Blue Cloud, which mainly involved adapting its server computers for cloud technology. Most major technology suppliers have cloud-related hardware and software products, including Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Dell. But I.B.M., analysts say, is going further by offering simplified, integrated stacks of hardware and software, as well as cloud services.
I.B.M.’s cloud strategy, the company said, is the culmination of 100 prototype projects with companies and government agencies over the last year, and its research partnership with Google.
“The information technology infrastructure is under stress already, and the data flood is just accelerating,” said Samuel J. Palmisano, I.B.M.’s chief executive. “We’ve decided that how you solve that starts by organizing technology around the workload.”
One of I.B.M.’s test beds for cloud computing has been the Interior Department’s National Business Center, a service center that handles payroll, human relations, financial reporting, contracting services and other computing tasks for dozens of federal agencies. The center runs two large data centers, one in Northern Virginia and another outside Denver.
Douglas J. Bourgeois, the center’s director, said he is introducing several cloud-style applications over the next nine months including Web-based training, and staffing and recruitment software. And in tests with financial and procurement software, the cloud-computing environment has delivered efficiencies of 40 to 60 percent in productivity and power consumption, he said.
“For us, like other data centers, the volume of data continues to explode,” Mr. Bourgeois said. “We want to solve some of those problems with cloud computing, so we don’t have to build another $20 million data center.”