Monday, March 23, 2009

Green: further thoughts

This is my second post about the green topic. If you're a frequent visitor you're probably used to more technical posts, or at least Informix oriented posts (that's what the blog is about!), but I couldn't avoid thinking about these issues and I'd like to share some thoughts with you.

In my last post I referenced an online radio show dedicated to the subject of how you can save money by implementing green initiatives. In other words, a green initiative can be described as any action we make to turn our companies and our presence in the planet more environment friendly. I couldn't stop noticing that lately we see a lot of activities in this field. A lot of companies are implementing green initiatives. I see this at a global and local level. Although I'm not a specialist on this issues, and I certainly haven't studied them, I think I won't be very far from the truth if I say that there are several reasons for this:

  1. Companies can really save money by going green
  2. It "looks good" to be green. Most of us are worried about the future of our planet. We probably feel better if we use green products. It's very difficult to change our daily routines, but it's very easy to buy products or use services from companies that show some care to the environment. So it makes us feel comfortable with our conscious
  3. Government regulations or actions favor companies with a green attitude
  4. Some of the reasons above make the green thing a market opportunity, specially in the current times of economic recession

A few examples of green initiatives from several companies:
  • IBM's smarter planet campaign (and blog)
    IBM is pushing not only the green initiatives, but also moving one step forward, and speaking of smarter resource usage. I'll pick this again below...
  • A local energy company launched a website promoting car pooling
    This company is the biggest Oil and Gas company on the Portuguese market
  • The biggest Portuguese bank launched a project called "Carbon zero"
    This initiative according to their words involves the bank staff, the customers and the society in general. The proposed idea is to reduce the environmental impacts of the bank's activities
  • The more than 4M results on Google when searching for "carbon capture" (see Wikipedia)
I could fill a large web page with examples, but I'm sure you know a lot of them. This has become a bit more than a buzz word. It's a trend. And it's probably a need for us as a society.
When I was in school, during my childhood, the idea of green was something like "don't throw papers on the street", "keep the beaches clean" etc. Currently kids are thought on how to separate and recycle garbage wastes etc. In the future, hopefully all this will be taken as granted and we'll be teaching our kids that everything we do has an impact on the environment. So all the projects, all the designs, all the plans will take this into careful consideration. As IBM put it, we must be smarter on our natural resource usage.
To give you a personal perspective on this issues I can tell you about two situations I've faced:
  • Last year I had the opportunity to spend a few days working in Toronto, Canada. For someone from a small country, Toronto is really big. I was impressed by the number of lanes in the highways. And the number of highways... and the length of highways, most of them apparently converging to the city center... Most of the highways had a lane reserved for cars with at least 2 (or more?) people in it... And most of these lanes were more or less empty...
  • A few days ago I took around 1H to get from my workplace to home. This may not look to bad for many of us, but in a normal day I would take about 15m. That's why I use a car and not public transportation... usually it's so much quicker... But on that specific day I passed by 3 accidents (small car crashes...). I felt really desperate to be stuck in the traffic, just a few kilometers from home...
These two situations definitely didn't feel "smart". How can we waste so many time and resources? There are better ways to move around. And we have so much technology that we could use to avoid situations like this... Cars could be smarter in order to avoid some crashes. We could be smarter and have detailed information about the road conditions. We could plan our itineraries in order to avoid traffic. We could use other means of transportation. We could use local systems in our companies in order to use car pooling etc.

This obviously isn't directly related to Informix... But we really need to use the technology we have available today in order to make better usage of the environment. And we will save money by doing so. This applies to companies and to individuals. And we, IT professionals, will probably have a word on this. We have to make our hardware run better and with less resources. Our software systems should be optimized so that we don't consume so much resources (hardware). We have to design and implement systems that make our daily live "smarter" and easier. And this will require information, and as such databases....

I'll end this post with a brief overview of some Informix characteristics that make it a good choice for green systems. This is my best attempt to give some sense to this post ;) :
  • Informix is very light. It's thread based architecture and efficient code makes it run fast with little resources
  • Informix thread based architecture makes it a very good choice for current multi-threaded processors.
  • Informix is very easy to setup. You can save time and use it elsewhere like in application design and tuning
  • Informix is embeddable. It has a very small footprint. It makes it a good choice for applications that need a local database
  • Informix is extensible. It allows anybody with the right skills to extend the base functionality. We can create new functions, new datatypes, new aggregate functions, new index mechanisms etc. As an example, the Spatial datablade can be used in a lot of modern applications that require geo-spatial information
  • Informix works well in virtualized environments. Virtualization is one of the most used technologies to save resources and make better usage of the hardware resources.
And this ends this non technical post. Next one should be about virtualization. How does Informix fits into this environments? And what has IBM done to help you with it...

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