You may be the smartest candidate for the job, but sometimes it’s all about social connections. This holds true in the Bing versus Google battle for search supremacy. Despite having what may be the smartest computer learning system in the world, the Microsoft-owned search engine lags far behind Google. Why? It’s all about the massive amount of personal information
Big Brother Google captures about users.
If CIOs don’t think they have to compete for the business of internal customers, chances are they’ve already lost them. Check out these expert tips on keeping IT competitive and relevant to the business. While you’re at it, read why we think this just might be the new CIO benchmark.
What’s a little privacy when there’s money to be saved on diapers and coffee? In a quest to create competitive advantage supermarket chains put big data analytics into action by offering customers individualized pricing based on their shopping habits.
Instagram: It’s not just for shoe-gazing hipsters anymore. Increasingly, big-name companies like Starbucks, GE and Nike are leveraging the popular photo app to gather customer data.
Finally, in case you missed it, check out this week’s installment of CIO Matters in which news director Linda Tucci makes a case for the CIO’s need to know just how “green” cloud computing really is and why it matters to us all.]]>
Leading off this week’s roundup, from our sister site SearchCIO-Midmarket.com, we have a CIO whose gold medal-worthy green tech innovation is truly energizing London’s Olympic Park. Also, read about how speeding to market with software could kill a trading firm, and read about the CIO’s role in IT transformation.
As chronicled on the SearchCIO-Midmarket.com blog, CIO Symmetry, the CIO of the London summer games scored big, lighting up Olympic Park with green tech innovation. And he didn’t even have to put on a Speedo.
Speed is great for sprinters and the like but can be downright dangerous for makers of stock-trading software. Perhaps Wall Street’s third stock-trading fiasco in five months will drive home this point.
Winning by changing the rules doesn’t sound very sportsmanlike. Unless we’re talking victory over network hackers — then by all means we ought to hear out the argument for changing the rules of writing code.
Think social collaboration is a frivolous pursuit? Perhaps this bar graph can convince you otherwise.
Finally, be sure to check out this week’s CIO Matters column, in which SearchCIO.com’s Editorial Director Scot Petersen looks at the role of the CIO in the midst of IT transformation.]]>
Yet both firms are doing things that ordinary enterprises can learn from:
1. Reconsider your business continuity plan. Yahoo is eliminating UPSes and backup generators. Instead, they are architecting each data center as a backup to the others. That eliminates UPSes as a significant power loss. They’ve had to install software that restarts servers in a controlled fashion after power resumes, however. Google took a different tack: eliminating larger UPSes in favor of small battery backups on each server motherboard. Either way, both data center approaches yield significantly greater energy efficiency.
2. Consider the weather when you site a data center. Yahoo is no longer building raised-floor data centers. By locating in more moderate climes, they’re able to utilize prebuilt warehouse-type buildings that use extensive ground-level air intake of cooler ambient air and roof-level exhaust of hot air.
3. Raise the temperature and humidity. Modern servers can run warmer and moister than you might think. A lot of conventional wisdom about server environments stems from the mainframe days, when you didn’t want punch cards wilting.
4. The big win in facilities power reduction in the data center is in cooling. Malone points out that typical chiller systems are only 60% efficient; Google has gotten to 90% by switching to evaporative cooling. Focusing on electrical transmission issues is good but yields much less improvement.
Google and Yahoo make extensive use of virtualization to improve capacity utilization and reduce the overall load. Noteboom and Malone stressed that senior IT managers need to make these issues part of the discussion with system architects, project managers and developers. All too often, those folks start from the premise of buying a certain kind of server for a certain kind of app, rather than asking how existing capacity could be deployed to meet that need.
And the result of all those efforts at Google and Yahoo? Dramatic improvements in power efficiency. The typical metric for this is power utilization efficiency, which means the ratio of total power consumed by the data center to total power consumed by just the servers themselves. Most contemporary data centers are in the 2.0-2.5 range – for every watt of power that a server uses to compute, they burn more than a watt in transmission loss, battery loss and cooling. Google is at 1.19 and Yahoo is targeting 1.03 in its next-gen data centers. In other words, if you’re typical, you’re spending twice what they are on power per server.]]>
Right now, the inconvenient truth that human beings have something to do with the degradation of our environment is a commonplace idea. Everybody is talking it up — well, almost everybody. Companies that are getting on the green IT bandwagon are getting brownie points for showing their awareness of the issue. CIOs are being urged to look beyond energy efficiency in the data center and the IT realm for ways to help their companies reduce their carbon footprints.
It’s not just companies. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), in its recent paper on green IT, points out that state governors are among the strongest advocates for green technology and suggests CIOs can essentially earn some career brownie points of their own by taking the lead on green issues.
Here’s an obnoxious caveat you might want to think about — actually, I’ll give you three caveats on the rush to go green:
Caveat No. 1: Heavy-metal footprint
Forget about the carbon footprint we hear so much about; consider what I would call IT’s heavy-metal footprint. This relates, of course, to the disposal of IT assets. Think of this like the benefits of nuclear power and the tremendous environmental problems generated by the spent nuclear fuel.
Although the heavy metals found in electrical devices and computers (including computer screens) — lead, cadmium mercury, chromium plus organic compounds related in part to flame retardants — are not radioactive, they are highly toxic to wildlife and children, in particular to developing brains. Think lead paint. Tons of equipment is dumped daily.
At the moment, if the pictures are to be believed, a considerable portion of this IT waste is ending up being disassembled by children in Third World countries, where few or no environmental protections are in force. While regulations are increasing, particularly in Europe, in the U.S. the best practices for disposing of much of this waste are still voluntary.
If money is an object in 2009, as most agree it will be, the least expensive ways of disposing of this waste will likely be associated with unscrupulous agents. The effect will be that poor regions of the world will be contaminated.
To put it another way, as your companies brag about reducing their carbon footprint with energy-efficient data centers and telepresence, it is at least worth keeping in mind that your heavy-metal footprint could have as bad or even worse consequences, like turning a child’s brain green!
There are companies that already get this. Pepsi Bottling is a good example. CIO Neal Bronzo faced the issue head on when he needed to replace 20,000 handheld devices used by delivery drivers. It was discovered that a Pepsi logo could not be removed without destroying the device, and the last thing Pepsi wanted was to see its brand piled atop a smoking heap of electronic waste in a poor Chinese town. Bronzo found a recycling company, Redemtech, which has put a stake in the ground against exporting IT waste.
Caveat No. 2: RoHs and other legislation is coming
Going green is very soon going to require buying electronic parts that don’t have the heavy metals. RoHs (I have no idea how to pronounce this) stands for the “Directive on the Restriction of the use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment.” It is already in effect in the European Union and is headed this way. Companies like Toshiba and Zeiss and others are already starting to sell electronic devices that are compliant with these new legislative initiatives. And given the focus of the president-elect on environmental issues, it would not be surprising to me to see legislation enacted. And that will come with a cost.
My very obnoxious caveat No. 3
Pretty soon the extra credit for going green is going to go away. When green IT becomes the norm rather than the exception, there will be no more brownie points, just like there are no brownie points for complying with Sarbanes-Oxley. If you don’t comply, you go to jail. When that happens, going green will no longer be a bonus point but a cost. And sooner or later, doing the right thing, I hate to tell you, is going to be headache.]]>
Especially for a kids’ movie, Wall-E has a lot of satirical elements, but there is some truth in most of them – including the future-of-humanity example listed above. And poor Wall-E’s entire existence hinges upon tending to out-of-control human waste (Wall-E stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth-Class). And, considering how much time we spend at our jobs, a lot of that waste is workplace-generated.
If you haven’t had a chance to read my colleague Linda Tucci’s story on electronic waste, or e-waste, please take a few minutes to do so…it invokes Wall-E in a way that shows how frightening real that dystopian scenario could become if not for vigilance in proper disposal of computer equipment. The EPA estimates that 40 million computers became obsolete last year. Imagine how much that number will continue to grow. And imagine when you start throwing in cell phones and other mobile communications devices…and business-generated paper waste….
So, as a CIO, what are you doing to ensure that your organization is properly managing its waste, electronic and otherwise? And where should I be throwing away this plastic bottle, again?]]>
On a related note, I found this survey from last summer, which said that 54% of executives polled said that their firms do not measure the environmental impact of their IT systems and policies, and 64% said that an industry standard on energy efficiency on IT equipment would cause them to change their procurement policies.
Version One’s general manager points out that his company’s survey results could stem less from apathy and more from complacency – some of the companies have already taken active steps to reduce their environmental impact and are less concerned than they were last year as a result.
I’d like to believe that, I really would – and it’s probably true, to an extent. But we’ve also all heard that companies big and small are tightening their belts through layoffs, wage and hiring freezes, and other tactics. So am I really surprised that “minding the environment even if it might cost our business more” might not be at the top of every IT professional’s priority list, especially now? I guess not.
This is a U.K. survey, but I wonder how IT professionals worldwide would respond to these questions. Does your organization have policies on limiting its environmental impact? What are they?]]>