I was fortunate enough to recently meet Christian Knermann from the Fraunhofer Umsicht Institute in Germany. Christian and some of his colleagues conducted a study on the positive environmental impact of replacing PCs with thin clients, using XenApp to deliver their desktops and applications. Having very precise  calculations combined with a detailed explanation of how these calculations were made is significant.

I’ve been promoting the concept of Green IT within and outside of Citrix for some time now,  motivated by the desire to do something for this world we live in at work as well as in my personal life. While I haven’t converted to solar power yet, I have replaced all my commuting and most of my personal traveling from car to bike. I know this isn’t something everyone can do (and I can’t lug my family of 5 behind me on a bike), I believe we all can do something to reduce the environmental impact of IT operations.

I won’t get into the argument of the causes or even the existence of global warming, but it is obvious to anyone that the more electricity we use to power Data Centers and end-points, the more pollution is released into the air. As well, the frequency in which we replace our hardware (and I have been a culprit here) in turn increases the amount of landfill, including some hazardous materials, into the environment.

In my efforts to raise Green IT awareness, I have seen a lot of calculations of the benefits of one technology over another. Sometimes its difficult to verify or even understand the math involved – which has been noticed and noted by others. Particularly when these calculations are on the power consumed or saved, and the costs involved. In many of the cases, I can see the logic behind them and therefore give the results some credence, but I would not have the same level of confidence if I had to relay these figures to an audience, especially one comprised of geeks who tend to, like me, question figures that are stated.

And that is where the Fraunhofer study becomes useful. Their study takes into consideration criteria such as the entire life-cycle of hardware from manufacturing to disposal, the different profiles of user from light to power users and even the effect of powering off at night. Impact was measured not only in power consumption, but also emissions, hazardous waste and even water consumed. The report is very detailed and includes a lot of graphs and tables to support their findings.

I recommend that anyone interested in implementing Green IT take a look at the report which can be found here. While the primary focus of the report is on replacing PCs with Thin Clients, it also covers in summary additional approaches such using 64 bit processors as well as virtualization.

If you speak german, you can also see and hear Christian talk about his work at the Synergy Underground site(http://community.citrix.com/underground/). The badly mangled german questions are from me .