Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Putting Green Computing & Virtualization into Perspective

[Cross-posted from my work blog]

Beijing_1 Having just returned from two weeks of business meetings across China, I came back with a completely new perspective on how the work that we're doing around Virtualization and Green Computing can directly effect emerging economies and the environment.

The picture to the right is from a beautiful, sunny morning in Beijing. What!?!? You can barely see the tops of the buildings and where are the blue skies?
With 15-20M people, 4M cars and 1000s of coal burning factories surrounding the city, Beijing has a well-known pollution problem. This same problem exists in at least 15 other major cities all over mainland China and Hong Kong. With a GDP that has grown over 10% y-o-y for the past decade (even 6.5% this past year), growth comes with a price. To walk around Beijing or Shanghai for several hours can give you red eyes and a feeling that you have smoked two packs of cigarettes.

One of the companies I met with was Beijing Tsinghua Solar Systems, one of the top Chinese manufacturers of solar tube and panel technology. With over 10M customers using their technology for basic functions like heating hot water in commercial and residential buildings, the country is able to offload about 50-65 coal-burning factories per year.

Those solar panels save the need to heat water for a few minutes a day. Imagine what the consolidation from virtualization technologies, and the efficiency from green data center technologies could do to put a dent in those coal-burning factories!! Data centers run hot 24x7x365, generating infinitely more demand for power than people looking to take a shower or wash their clothes. Now combine that with the ever growing increases in mobile computing (cell phones) from the next wave of Chinese farmers moving to the cities and you've got a pollution problem that moves from annoying to potentially deadly. To put this into even more perspective, there are between 100-150M people in China that earn less than $1 per day!! If you don't believe those people, and the Chinese government, are extremely motivated to move them out of extreme poverty, then I don't know what to say. These new workers will continue to drive more need for power in data centers, which puts a greater focus on those of us in technology to find more and better ways to deliver that power, computing and storage capacity in a much more environmentally friendly way.

It's good to be back home near family, but my perspective on the need to create more efficient data centers and building systems is now completely changed. The economies of the US and China are so intertwined that this is a global need. It's good to know that we're in a position to make a difference.
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