Many companies and organizations have pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050, and almost all are attempting to quantify their carbon emissions and reduce—if not reverse—them. In a recent Computer article, Hewlett Packard researchers discuss how the information technology (IT) sector can play a crucial role in these efforts to contend with climate change. 

Sustainability Tools and Actions for IT
The article presents fundamental sustainability prin­ciples and tools, and then discusses how the IT sector can apply them in their own operations. It also describes how IT companies can assist other sectors in reducing their own carbon footprints.

Apply a Supply–Demand Sustainability Framework
In 1987, the UN Brundtland Commission essentially defined sustainability as ensuring adequate supply-side resources to meet fundamental demand-side needs and thereby support the quality of life of current and future generations.

Accordingly, this article introduces a supply–demand framework to define and guide sustainability, using available energy as the measure. The framework is based on three supply-side sustainability practices:

  • Conduct a cradle-to-cradle analysis and create a design that minimizes the avail­able energy required to extract, manufacture, mitigate waste, transport, operate, and reclaim components.
  • Use local energy resources to minimize the destruction of available energy. This approach contrasts with traditional systems, which often lose available en­ergy by transmitting and distributing it across long dis­tances from a centralized location.
  • Seek out available energy in waste streams, such as in exhaust heat from turbines and waste from farms or municipalities.

The framework also includes three demand-side practices:

  • Optimize resource provision based on users’ actual needs to minimize the consumption of available energy.
  • Facilitate on-demand provisioning using flexible hardware building blocks, pervasive sensing, com­munications, knowledge discov­ery, and policy-based control.
    Practice hardware-software codesign and management.

To illustrate the framework’s application, the article offers detailed examples, including its use in data center design and operations and 3D digital manufacturing.

Consider the Technology Life Cycle
The technology life cycle model helps stakeholders determine when to replace aging technol­ogy. In addition to potential reduc­tions in operational carbon footprint from purchasing new, more-efficient equipment, the model considers the often-neglected upstream carbon embedded in the manufacturing and delivery processes. 

Develop an Environmental Strategy
To achieve net-zero carbon by 2050, IT leaders must enhance the efficiency and sustainability of their own operations and also help other carbon-intensive sectors to decarbonize. The authors offer an extensive list of recommendations for starting and carrying out this crucial net-zero work.

Create Energy-Aware IT
The article describes approaches to creating energy-aware IT and highlights four fundamental approaches:

  • Manage workload and hardware to achieve the most work with the least amount of equipment.
  • Use the least amount of energy input possi­ble to achieve the high­est possible levels of power, storage, and communication.
  • Match the type and quantity of materials to the space, power, and cooling requirements needed to create effective data center systems.
  • Use software, AI, and machine learning to increase efficiency, decrease down time, and enhance management procedures.

The article describes each of these approaches in detail and includes examples of their application.

Find Out More
The authors conclude their discussion with a detailed summary of the key points about and challenges of implementing sustainability on a global level.

For a deeper look at this effort and sustainability principles and tools, download “Sustainability: Fundamentals-Based Approach to Paying It Forward” by Cullen Bash, Ninad Hogade, Dejan Milojicic , Gourav Rattihalli, and Chandrakant D. Patel from the IEEE CS Digital Library.

A Fundamentals-Based Approach to IT Sustainability
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