Green IT Panel

University at the Corner of LexingtonJust before the break, Zicklin had the honor of hosting four leaders in Green IT for a panel discussion on the 14th floor of the Newman Vertical Campus.  Prof Kannan Mohan welcomed students and others followed by an introduction of the panelists.

David Bartlett,  VP of Industry Solutions at IBM

Diane Chehab, acting director at NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) and an MBA graduate of Zicklin!

Balaja Ganapathy, head of Workforce Effectiveness at Tata Consultancy Services

Bob Mullen, VP of Information Resources of Consolidated Edison

The following post is a collection of highlights from the discussion that  I found most relevant.

What is the link between IT, Sustainability and Strategy?

DB:  The world is highly instrumented — even a toaster has sensors and chips.  There’s so much data coming everywhere, especially from modern buildings.  It’s talking, but who’s listening?

BM: The intersection of operation and IT, where they use the latter to monitor the delivery and emissions (e.g. NOx, or heat\load on transformers).  ConEd has sustainability goals on the IT, data centers, PCs etc. Those goals are expanding with Smart Grids.

How do you measure\control and try to reduce the carbon footprint of IT within your organization?

DC:  Just through virtualization, NYCHA has reduced the number of its data centers from three down to two, and soon to one.  There are many measures – we are doing a pilot of thin clients (i.e. just a monitor at desks connecting to a centralized system); we put our computers in sleep mode when not in use…  Even just defaulting printers to automatically print double side will save on costs and energy.

DB: IT has a footprint on energy use.  Studies have shown that servers in data centers are under utilized.  Consolidation and virtualization reduces power and allocates them as they are needed.   In data centers themselves, the person who runs the data centers was not the one who paid the bill.    Changing the bill paying to the CIO and power usage starts to drop.  Thermal mapping and adjusting the ventilation to address hot spots is another tactic.  Use outside air to achieve 40% savings sometimes.

BG:  From the employee behavior perspective, when you say reduce energy, or reduce consumption, you’re taking about culture.  Tata uses campaigns on how employees can individual address sustainability, carbon footprint, waste, energy, etc.  Today, a new employee’s personal stake in sustainability is included in orientation.  The intent is to create a culture.

BM: The driver behind sustainability in IT is improved operations and reduced costs.  Sustainability is a nice byproduct.  Virtualization, even for moderate users like ConEd, has saved them a lot of money.  They used collaboration and teleconferencing as a valuable tool even over just the NYC metro region.  They save drive time, tolls, etc.

What is the role of IT in other business functions?

BM:  Smart grid (or advanced metering initiative –AMI) has been around for a long time on energy systems.  What is new is the explosion in the availability of sensors and communication.   A control center wants the state of every endpoint and the power flow based upon actual usage not a model.  ConEd currently has 200 locations with about 25000 endpoints.  On the extreme side of the a smart grid, there will be an IP-connected device at every house and business.  Suddenly ConEd’s network expands from 25k to 4m endpoints.   It’s a huge technical challenge and cyber security is a huge concern.

DC: NYCHA is about equivalent to a city like Atlanta, in terms of its resident population. We have buildings built from 1930 through the 1980s and a multitude of different control and monitoring systems for elevators, boilers, cameras….  Integrating these disparate systems is very complex.  The systems don’t “talk” to each other, elevator controls even less than the other technologies.  Facilities used to manage all building control systems.  IT used to be pulled in when there were problems, but these systems are increasingly dependent on IT, which is starting to take the lead in view of creating a centralized and integrated system.  The cost of these initiatives will be analyzed, as well as their impact on residents’ quality of life.

DB: He started with a IBM site in Minnesota to try and make it a smart building.  They got pushback from the facility guys.  Once it was done, the facility guys really appreciated it.  They could run analytics and prioritize problems and thereby exceed their goals.

What challenges do you face with e-waste?

BG:  There are two aspects 1) Conservation. That is not procuring more than you need to & managing resources well   . . . they have some offices that work in two shifts.  Therefore workers use the same cubicle.   2) Proper disposal.  Tata works with vendors to take part in existing programs.

BM:  Thinks it’s about being a good citizen and making sure it goes into the correct “bin.”  ConEd has a lot of stuff that needs to be property disposed of.  For IT, it’s not that big of a step due to the culture.   The challenge is the due diligence to make sure that the disposers are doing what they say they are doing.  ConEd has a culture of making sure that happens.

What kind of jobs are there at the intersection of sustainability and IT?

DB:  They employ a large team of engineers who have to understand technology and all things green.  The people they are looking for those who also have business acumen and life sciences acumen to bolster their technical skills.

DC: The field is relatively new, and if you are up to speed, you can write your ticket.  Follow your own inclination and be sure to get past the buzz words.  Know the fundamentals behind them. Know more than IT skills.  You will have to able to expand beyond a narrow skills set.

BG:  There is opportunity to use IT to bridge technology to literacy and other social initiatives.   Their is a societal change you can bring about at the intersection of IT, life sciences and the social realm.   Being narrowly focused may help in the near term, but diversifying will help you in the long-term.

BM: There isn’t a specific role for IT\sustainability person.  But really IT and sustainability are tools in your toolbox.    IT becomes a lever for sustainable goals.

Many thanks to our panelists for taking time.  We appreciate your candid opinions about the field.  Our gratitude also goes to Prof Mohan and others who worked to put this panel together.  Well done.

For those interested in GreenIT, check in to the knowledge base that accompanies the CIS9771 course.  It is a combination of blog and wiki that covers the evolving topics around sustainability and IT.

One Response to “Green IT Panel”
  1. Prof Mohan has made available a video of the entire event. You can find it at the Baruch Media Center

    Thanks to Ms Chehab for clarifications on the text.

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