Sunday, 15 November 2009

Time to Eat the Programmer?

One of my colleagues asked the question of whether the work that we do (at Everware-CBDI) could ride the ‘green’ bandwagon. After all he suggested, some of our key services in helping customers to transform their existing systems, and reuse software components and software services via CBD and SOA, might be considered ‘green’.

My first reaction was “that’s a bit of a stretch”. However, some of the news recently that has accompanied the publication of the book “Time to Eat the Dog” by Robert and Brenda Vale highlights just how complex the ‘green’ issue is.

For example, the authors point out that the ecological footprint of a keeping a medium sized dog as a pet is in fact greater than that of driving a large SUV 10,000km a year. This presents a double ecological challenge for my colleague who raised the question as he has both a Labrador and a SUV.

It struck me therefore that if those authors can determine the effect each pet has on the environment, then similarly we ought to be able to determine the ecological impact of each line of code produced by a programmer.

I don’t intend to do so here (determining the equation would itself be a waste of valuable resources – well my time at least). But it does illustrate just how complex the issues of all things ‘green’ truly are.

Most ‘green’ IT efforts today are focused on reducing energy consumption by using more efficient computers. Similarly, many of the ‘green’ messages focused on the population at large are also focused on reducing energy consumption by using more efficient means of transport.

But if as demonstrated by the ecological impact of pets, we need to consider much more complex factors in order to truly establish our impact on the environment, then I guess it is just as valid to ask not just how much electricity does a CPU use, but also what is the ecological impact of programming – or other IT development activities.

Perhaps organizations that are serious about ‘green’ IT ought to better consider the options of software ‘recycling’ before they simply create yet another new system. No longer is it just an economic decision of whether it is cheaper to recycle components of an existing system or build new one, now it is also an ecological decision too.

Yes, it is still a “bit of a stretch”. But nevertheless, not perhaps quite as extraneous as you might have first thought.

(you can read more about “Time to Eat the Dog” via New Scientist, BBC News, Guardian Newspaper)

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