[oclug] Environmental Issue
rbgiffin at gmail.com
Mon Apr 23 18:15:16 EDT 2007
On 4/23/07, miden <miden at travel-net.com> wrote:
> A few months ago on this list, and presently on the Tech list, there has
> been some discussion of the power consumption of the various bits and
> pieces of equipment we all may use. This raises an interesting question:
> Would it be environmentally beneficial to have all computer services
> provided from central servers rather than have hundreds of millions of
> individuals (and millions of businesses) running there own clusters of
I see I am about to differ with just about everyone else. There is a strong
business case to be made in fact, for doing just this. For business, if not
for individuals, but there are varying degrees of involvement at any rate.
Thin client technologies (not necessarily "web browser based" but they are
included) have enabled this to occur. The benefits to an organization can
far outweigh the drawbacks. These days, it is not a return to "dumb
terminals" though, which were common back in the MIS days. Instead, the
technology allows application components to be stored on a central server,
and sent to the user's computer on request so they can be executed locally.
Security is not compromised, because the user can still store their data on
their own storage facilities (whether networked or local). The data
transfer from the central servers consists only of application components.
Even for individuals and small businesses with broadband connections, the
price of using centralized services *can* make sense. Especially for
someone who might not be completely familiar with the intracancies of DNS,
E-Mail servers, web servers - using a centrally managed service can be a
real benefit to their business. It can also save them from embarrassing
For larger organizations, setting up their own centrally managed application
servers is also economical, but many also outsource. Think of the savings
just in desktop support and application maintenance. Instead of having to
upgrade each computer system, all the administrators have to do is to deploy
an upgrade to the application server. Sometimes this works out to one
system to upgrade, compared with hundreds or thousands.
Would centralisation of services provide any significant environmental
> benefit (economies of scale?) through reduced electrical power
> consumption -and additionally through any reduction in the need for
> hardware containing hazardous materials?
Including the cost of the hardware, electricity, disposal of equipment etc.,
yes it is still economically viable in many situations. If you own a
2000.00 system as a server, you can sometimes buy a several years worth of
service for the price of that hardware - and if your software doesn't work,
you have a 1-800 number to get it fixed. It might not make sense for the
guy with a 5 year old desktop he's using as a web and mail server, but even
the 5 bucks/month or so for the static IP address he really should have can
buy a considerable amount of service from some of these services.
I'm not suggesting that I advocate this - it raises a lot of issues such
> as security, reliablility, privacy, control of the operating system,
> possibile difficulties with introducing new software applications etc.
Actually, it doesn't normally raise those concerns. The security and
reliability of these services is often higher than people can provide for
themselves. Now, I'm not talking about system engineers here, I'm talking
about regular computer users. The services depend on their security,
reliability, and service for their business, so if they want to be in
business a month from now, they hire good people to do their support and
engineering. Control of the operating system is no longer a problem. In
fact many of these services will allow you to deploy the operating system of
your choice, and give you multiple Gb worth of storge. Introducing new
software applications is one of the key benefits to this (as I wrote before)
because you only have to deploy the application once, instead of multiple
By the way, while I am advocating this, I am also aware that it is dependant
on the situation. I don't think that everyone should immediately go out and
become a customer of one of these services - it depends on their individual
situation. For businesses though, both small and intermediate, outsourcing
these services is almost always a definite option. For large businesses, in
fact many of them never stopped outsourcing these services - for good
reason. It allows them to remain focused on their core competencies -
activities from which they derive a profit - and that is a key to success in
Also, you should know that I am a consultant, and my work involves in part,
which paradigm to use for delivery of some very specialized applications.
As I said, it depends on the situation, but in fact it is almost always a
viable option if it is available.
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