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Power Supercomputing IBM Science

Move to a Mainframe, Earn Carbon Credits 316

BBCWatcher writes "As Slashdot reported previously, Congress is pushing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop energy efficiency measures for data centers, especially servers. But IBM is impatient: Computerworld notes IBM has signed up Neuwing Energy Ventures, a company trading in energy efficiency certificates, in a first for "green" computing. Now if your company consolidates, say, X86 servers onto an IBM mainframe on top of slashing about 85% off your electric bill each megawatt-hour saved earns one certificate. Then you can sell the certificates in emerging carbon trading markets. IBM's own consolidation project (collapsing 3,900 distributed servers onto 30 mainframes) will net certificates worth between $300K and $1M, depending on carbon's market price. Will ubiquitous carbon trading discourage energy-inefficient, distributed-style infrastructure in favor of highly virtualized and I/O-savvy environments, particularly mainframes?"
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Move to a Mainframe, Earn Carbon Credits

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  • Full Circle? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Aereus ( 1042228 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:39AM (#21238731)
    I do find it ironic that computing started out with large mainframes, and now it seems more and more likely that the majority of computing needs in the future will be met by terminals connected to mainframes via virtualization.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      You have obviously never watched any science fiction movies, television shows, or LARP sessions. You must have also missed the entire genre of sci-fi fiction that always assumed that the future would be in the form of gigantic databases which controlled every aspect of life.

      I think Vonnegut said it best, "I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled "Science Fiction" ... and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      But the difference is that now everybody gets their own little sandbox.
      It's not full circle, it's a combination. A large playground with a sandbox for each kid.
      • Re:Full Circle? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <ed@membled.com> on Monday November 05, 2007 @08:03AM (#21239793) Homepage
        People had their own little sandbox in the old days too. If you were paying large sums for an account on a timesharing system, you'd want to be sure that some idiot wasn't chewing all your CPU time or memory. And you certainly wouldn't want other people having access to your files. Hence the elaborate systems to virtualize and isolate each instance, and quota out system resources fairly.

        Please remember that in computing, nothing new has been invented since 1970.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by BlueParrot ( 965239 )

          Please remember that in computing, nothing new has been invented since 1970.

          Oh really?

          A NeXTcube was used by Berners-Lee as the world's first web server and also to write the first web browser, WorldWideWeb, in 1990. By Christmas 1990, Berners-Lee had built all the tools necessary for a working Web:[4] the first web browser (which was a web editor as well), the first web server, and the first web pages[5] which described the project itself. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_World_Wide_Web [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by feepness ( 543479 )

      I do find it ironic that computing started out with large mainframes, and now it seems more and more likely that the majority of computing needs in the future will be met by terminals connected to mainframes via virtualization.

      Keep in mind that your cellphone will has more power than most of the mainframes used to and the terminals will have far more power beyond that.

      It's a change in terminology, not in behavior. It's not that terminals are connected to mainframes, it's that everyone has their own mainframe and the personal mainframes are connected to mega-super-duper mainframes.

      Which, in twenty years, will fit on your watch.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Antiocheian ( 859870 )
        If you judge "power" by an arithmetic test of the CPU and by memory size, probably.

        But even the old mainframes were build to sustain stress in multiuser environments where your cellphone and even your modern PC would collapse.
        • Stress in multiuser environments? Are you serious?

          Cell phones have to deal with interference from thousands of other cell phones while moving between base stations without dropping encrypted packets of data where even a slight delay is noticeable to the user.

          Call waiting, conference calls, video calling etc. are all tasks that a mainframe would have struggled with.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            I think by stress in multiuser environments, he meant having 600,000 simultaneous connections running through your processor simultaneously. No, your little cellphone/pda combo are NOT the equivalent of a mainframe. Maybe the equivalent of one little front-end I/O processor connected to the mainframe.

            People get this idea that raw number crunching is all that mainframes do. It's the massive I/O backplane, people....

            • Sure there are certain loads that mainframes were better at but the I/O that cellphones could be dealing with rivals the I/O for (some of the) mainframes with the processing power of a cellphone.

              Yes, there's specialisation but many old mainframes wouldn't have had the processing power, the memory or the I/O to handle simultaneous video conferencing while talking to different base stations.

              Modern mainframes are better at I/O but that wasn't really in dispute. The point was that their lower energy usage might
      • A mainframe isn't just a really powerful PC - it's an entirely different thing. Have you ever worked on one?
    • Assuming that you mean the electronic computers, we are talking about The ENIAC. It handled 1 problem at a time, was a pain to work with, and was inefficient. That is more akin to the PC, than a mainframe. Mainframes handle loads of ppl/problems.
    • by asliarun ( 636603 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @05:32AM (#21239125)

      and now it seems more and more likely that the majority of computing needs in the future will be met by terminals connected to mainframes via virtualization.
      That is indeed Big Irony.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ronbo142 ( 942105 )
      I have worked on the IBM platforms on and off since 1982, these are quite possibly the most stable and reliable platforms in existance. Virtualization is the wave of the future there is no reason for me to have a computer on my desk, truly a waste of resources. Ronbo
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tompaulco ( 629533 )
      Well, this is the first major call I have seen back to mainframes, but it does seem that every 5 years the trend switches from centralization to decentralization and back again. I've often said that if you could master both sides of the trend, you could be one rich consultant, you just have to know when to preach which mantra.
  • by Z80xxc! ( 1111479 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:41AM (#21238741)
    The whole concept of "carbon neutral" and off-setting your carbon emissions for whatever reason seams kind of lame to me. Instead of continuing to do things that cause global warming while doing other things to supposedly reduce your "carbon footprint", why not just try to eliminate or reduce the problems in the first place? It's not just individuals, it's the whole mindset of society. Instead of going for carbon-neutral server farms, why not develop cleaner alternative electricity options to power those server farms? Solar power could do a lot, but we'd rather earn carbon certificates. It just doesn't make sense.
    • by enos ( 627034 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:49AM (#21238771)
      The point of carbon credits is to do just that. The credits are supposed to reward people putting in these more energy-saving machines. The idea is to put a monetary cost on polluting so that the market can do its thing and end up at a "greener" point by doing exactly what you describe, reducing the problem in the first place.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dachannien ( 617929 )
        What actually will end up happening is that companies or countries (however you want to look at it) that already aren't emitting much CO2 will sell their allowance (that they weren't going to use themselves anyway) to the companies or countries that are emitting a lot of CO2. The net result: you've picked some level of global CO2 emissions and guaranteed that actual emissions will never fall below that value. (If actual global emissions were to fall below that value, then it means somebody's carbon credi
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Hal_Porter ( 817932 )

          In the end, all you've really done is created a massive system for the redistribution of wealth from industrialized nations to pre-industrial nations.

          It's actually worse than that. Russia got assigned carbon credits based on Soviet estimates of the size of the economy, despite the fact that the Soviet Union had at that point collapsed and so had the economy. So Russia was offered a huge pile of emissions credits that it could sell as a sweetner for signing up to Kyoto.

          http://arstechnica.com/journals/science.ars/2005/12/28/2238 [arstechnica.com]

          Russia is Europe's largest producer of greenhouse gases, but Russian businessesespecially its power companiesare hoping to cash in on a provision in the Kyoto Accord, which would help change that. The Kyoto Accord sets certain pollution goals to be met by 2012, and these goals are based on 1990 greenhouse emissions. For instance, the countries in the EU are required to reduce their emissions to 8 percent below their 1990 levels. In a strange twist of irony, Russia is already way below their target as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, Russia produces 43 percent less greenhouse gas by weight than they did in 1990. It is estimated that this difference, which can be sold to other countries in the form of carbon credits ranges in value between US$20-60 billion.

          So it's not like the cash is going to starving peasants in the Third World, it's actually going to the gangsters who run Gazpro

          • It isn't going to the people who need it. It's a real false idea that the major problem in these extremely poor countries is lack of money. Some seem to hold the idea that what is going on is nobody is willing to give them any money, and if we'd just quite being assholes then they'd have plenty.

            Well, not so much. There actually is aid, more than you'd think. The problem is that aid can't be taken to the people who need it. The big problems really are war, corruption, and population growth. When a nation is
        • by Ost99 ( 101831 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:16AM (#21239297)
          First of all, the idea that developing countries will get larger quotas than they currently use is wrong.

          To get the credit market to work, you need to make sure there are higher demand than supply, that should not be hard.

          Here (in Norway) the state will not issue any "free" credits to the industry.
          The state will sell credits for up to 85% of our current emission levels, above that the industry will have to buy credits abroad or reduce their emissions.

          Reduction abroad will in many cases be less expensive than domestic reductions (both because the implementation cost will be lower in a developing country, but also because the cheaper "early" improvements already has been done at home). As long as credits bought from abroad reduces emissions where they were bought, the system works.

          There are also individuals and organizations positioning themselves to buy up credits without any intentions of using them.

          The credit system will be make sure that existing emission-reduction technology will be implemented as soon as the credit price rise above a certain level. What it will not ensure is funding for long term research into new solutions.

          Research into new energy sources and emission-reduction technology still needs heavy governmental support. A good start would be 1% of GDP for all industrialized countries.

          The nonsense about the carbon credit system being a wealth redistribution system is just stupid.
          Giving / implementing emission-reduction technology to the industry in the developing is in no shape or form redistribution of wealth, it's saving our bacon.

          And remember, a large part of the industry in the developing countries is owned by multinationals, if the carbon credit system did not include those countries, all that would happen is that even more of the worlds production would "globalize".
      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
        But don't get rewarded by lower power bills? Maybe I should get some carbon credits since my electricity comes from a carbon free source?
        Seems like a good way to pay people to push paper. You will create thousands of jobs just to keep track of these carbon futures. They will fly on jets to conferences and drive to work every day. They will run computers to keep track of this and that and will in the end consume power and produce carbon all the while making nothing but paperwork.
    • by Antity-H ( 535635 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @04:01AM (#21238823) Homepage
      Actually it does according to market theory.

      Currently the market does not integrate the cost of emitting carbon in the atmosphere. As a result the carbon emitting technologies seem to be less expensive for the same result and the market logically develops these. Introducing a feedback in the market that the carbon emissions actually has a cost sends a message saying that carbon emitting tech is not the most efficient choice. The market will find an alternative solution instead of a solution being forced on it which might not be the most efficient in the end.

      You mention that you want to eliminate the problem in the first place then you mention solar power, but how do you know that solar power is the best, or that nuclear power is? Maybe it's wind based, or ethanol based, or hydrogen based power or even cattle based power that's the most efficient. Or maybe a company will start doing research because there is a market for it and someone will come up with a transimentional p0rn energy extractor or even an Anonymous Coward based power source, who knows ?

      The thing is the market will integrate the feedback signal and propagate it. This avoids forcing decisions on the market about the solution, the certificates are only reminding it of the problem. Going for carbon-netural server-farm is simply passing along the signal back to energy producers.

      It looks like it's working for other problems.IIRC sulfur dioxid emission certificates led companies who claimed that installing an emission cleaner for it cost too muuch to actually install them even though buying the certificates seemed to cost less. the real price (vs company reported) of installing the cleaner was less than trading certificates in the long term thus they ended up investing.

      Let's hope it will work for carbon too.
      • The problem is that carbon credits suggests that carbon pollution is a resource, that we have n units of carbon pollution, and we should make the most of them - but what we really want it to limit carbon pollution as much as possible. Carbon credits is the wrong solution to the right problem - it just moves the pollution, it doesn't eliminate it.

        When enough companies turn green, and there is sure a trend in that direction (granted, also because of carbon credits), they all want to sell thier credits. When s
        • by Ost99 ( 101831 )
          If industrial growth continues while the total carbon credits in circulation declines over time, this should not be a problem.

          It's a stated goal in Norway to reduce the domestic carbon credits sold to 0 by 2050. All carbon credits will have to be bought (preferably by paying for emission-reduction technology) in other countries.
    • by feepness ( 543479 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @04:13AM (#21238867) Homepage

      The whole concept of "carbon neutral" and off-setting your carbon emissions for whatever reason seams kind of lame to me.
      It's not supposed to be functional, it's supposed to make you feel better about your "sin".

      It's the global-warming equivalent of saying your Hail Marys.
    • Granting carbon credits for cutting your electricity bill seems like double-counting to me. The whole point is meant to be that the carbon quotas apply at the point where carbon dioxide is emitted. For example, a coal-fired power station could close down and be replaced by a tidal power station, generating carbon credits which can be sold on. If in turn a user of electricity gets credited for using less (even though the power they are buying didn't generate carbon to start with), that is clearly bogus.

      • by Ed Avis ( 5917 )

        FTR - I talked to someone I know who works in this area and this is what he said:

        Well normally producers get credits for producing the same amount of electricity in a less carbon intensive way (e.g. improving a power station so that it burns less coal, building a windfarm etc) but in this case, the credits actually come for using less electricity (energy efficiency on the demand side) so in that case, the credits would go to the entity that is implementing the efficiency measures that produce the saving.

    • Inquiring minds want to know.
  • So, in 50 years when the earth HASN'T turned into a bad hollywood movie and everyone wakes up to the fact global warming is a scam, get we get a refund on these bogus credits?

    this whole carbon trading thing reeks of profiteering to me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Spad ( 470073 )
      It's a great idea really. You're a big polluting corporation, so you set up a couple of very low emission subsidury companies that earn "carbon credits" for their low carbon footprint. You then "buy" these credits off them to allow you to pollute as much as you want.

      See, the environment is saved.
    • ...and reducing the amount of pollution we spew into the atmosphere is beneficial to us and to the environment, global-warming boogeyman or not.
      • Excellent point. I can think of a lot of reasons to reduce CO2 and other emissions that are far better and more immediate that climate change.

        Unfortunately its lost on a lot of people. Regardless what you believe the whole GW debate has got so... politically religious that a lot of people just don't want to know anymore. (note: /. is *not* a good reflection on what a lot of people think)
        • Not to mention the fact that it seems like everything EXCEPT CO2 has been completely forgotten! Pretty annoying...
    • Mod Parent Up (Score:3, Interesting)

      by giafly ( 926567 )

      So, in 50 years when the earth HASN'T turned into a bad hollywood movie and everyone wakes up to the fact global warming is a scam, get we get a refund on these bogus credits? this whole carbon trading thing reeks of profiteering to me.

      That's exactly right. The speed of global warming is grossly exaggerated and most so-called ways of fighting it are scams. In 50 years earth won't yet have turned into a disaster movie. The problem is that there's so much inertia in this process that in 50 years the disaste

  • we came in?

    Apologies to Pink Floyd.
  • I'm sorry, but could someone explain what a carbon credit is, or what these "emerging carbon markets" are all about?

    I did some cursory research, and as best as I can tell, carbon certificates have value only in public perception. Like gold stars for exceptional pupils.

    Is there really a market for "warm & fuzzy feelings" now?
    • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @05:10AM (#21239065)
      At the moment there is no permission required to pollute, you could pump as much CO2 into the air as you like. Well, instead of that the government says:

      1: You need permission to pollute.
      2: You get those permissions from the carbon credit markets.
      3: You have to buy them at whatever they cost in that market every year.
      4: You can sell permissions if you have more than you need.

      Then the government auctions enough credits to represent a slight reduction in the overall production in CO2. Each credit might represent one tonne of CO2. Then each year the government reduces the numbers of credits available in the market. The cost of a credit then increases simply due to the reduction in supply or the increase in demand.

      As the cost of emitting the CO2 increases, companies will switch to alternative solutions, choosing whichever they like best.

      Of course, this only works if politicians aren't completely corrupt or utter morons, as seems largely to be the case. In that case they might give companies credits and allow them to sell them on the markets, it's basically free money to those companies which receive the credits.
      • I'll complete your explanation with the obligatory, yet not-so-far-off-the-truth addition:

        1: You need permission to pollute.
        2: You get those permissions from the carbon credit markets.
        3: You have to buy them at whatever they cost in that market every year.
        4: You can sell permissions if you have more than you need.
        5: ???
        6: Profit!!!
  • Actually no. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @04:46AM (#21238985)
    Peak oil is going to do the job instead.
    • Come back when we reach peak-coal.
  • by bytesex ( 112972 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @05:41AM (#21239159) Homepage
    If I've ever heard of something ripe for the plucking by anyone and everyone who is just a tad corrupt, then this is it. We'll have a proper eco-mob. Seriously, who's going to regulate this market ? Who checks the validity of these certificates ? Because this sounds like printing your own money.
  • I am getting sick to the gut from this carbon credit crap that is spouted all over the place. Doesn't anyone think any more these days? See: www.carbonhoax.org.nz
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BarneyL ( 578636 )
      Couldn't you have at least pointed to an anti global warming site that isn't a complete joke?
      To quote their first "argument": "Scientist are doubtful that CO2 harms the climate."
      I half expected the second to be: "All your carbon credit are belong to us"
  • In the end (Score:4, Funny)

    by ms1234 ( 211056 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:06AM (#21239253)
    In the end we'll end up with just 5 huge mainframes in the world as foretold by the IBM executive in the 50's? (can't remember where he was quoted).
  • x86 inefficent? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by happymellon ( 927696 )
    IBM promoting a proprietary technology? Wouldn't you get the same type of saving on moving to Power or Sparc instead of x86 since they are also hugely more energy efficent? You also have to remember that it depends on what your processing, mainframe will only provide you with a speed boost with certain types of basic arithmetic (quite a big speed boost in some cases). So take these increases with a pinch of salt. On second thoughts perhaps I'm just bitter from increasing capacity the capacity of our mainfr
    • by BBCWatcher ( 900486 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @07:36AM (#21239655)

      As a general rule, if you're building a business computer and want to save as much as electricity as possible, the most highly virtualized (and virtualizable) platform wins. So attributes like massive caches and screaming I/O help enormously. (I think there was a Stanford study recently that figured this out.) Thus it's no surprise a modern mainframe is more energy efficient than anything else.

      But in the Computerworld article referenced in the original story, IBM says the carbon program will also be available for its System p servers at some point in the future. My prediction is that you'll typically get fewer certificates if you move to System p versus System z, but it's likely businesses will do some of both depending on what sort of applications they're rehosting. There are some types of applications that will do better on System p, and there is some software that runs on AIX that doesn't run on z/OS or Linux.

      Regarding SPARC it's impossible to say since Sun hasn't entered into any carbon credit auditing system yet. The IBM-Neuwing program is a first. However, my prediction is that you'll get even fewer certificates if you consolidate to SPARC. I say that simply because I assume IBM is acting in its own self-interest, and I'm sure they think the energy efficiency fight is one they can win against other vendors. In this case self-interest and environmentalism coincide. For any of these platforms, though, businesses will figure out whether the certificates favor certain platforms over others, and they'll do that application by application (or application function by application function). And many other factors will go into the decision as well, although most of those factors pull in the same direction as energy efficiency, such as software charges. One could even imagine that before long server vendors lagging in the energy efficiency department will start bundling carbon certificates with their servers in order to compete. Thus IBM adopting this program is a smart way to respond to an untapped market need and to raise the effective price of competing servers compared to IBM's. Very smart move.

      By the way, the world has totally flipped on its head, and it would be extremely misleading to say an IBM mainframe is "proprietary" and X86 (for example) isn't. What does proprietary mean? You can run pure 100% GPL Linux on an IBM mainframe -- Debian, Slackware, CentOS, etc. -- and you don't even need a closed source driver as you usually need for X86 servers. IBM publishes extreme instruction-level detail in a free book called Principles of Operation [ibm.com], and it's so detailed and thorough that the open source community created an implementation of the instruction set called Hercules that actually works compared to still imperfect efforts like Bochs and QEMU. (Although IBM may assert patent claims on its processor architecture.) One company is porting OpenSolaris to System z, and they didn't even have to ring up IBM. In comparison, Intel and AMD also may assert patent claims, and AMD is suing Intel for alleged monopolistic behavior. Neither Intel nor AMD publish PoO-type documents (to that level of detail). Then there's Microsoft Windows, and it's hard to think of any more proprietary OS than that.

      Also, IBM changed the way it charges for z/OS software about 7 years ago. Now almost everything is charged by the amount you actually use, something IBM calls Variable Workload License Charge (VWLC). If you run a little bit of DB2 in one LPAR (partition) but a lot of IMS in another, then you pay a little for DB2 and more for IMS. You also control exactly what you consume using something called softcaps, and you can set those either per-LPAR or for a group of LPARs. One interesting little twist to mainframe subcapacity licensing is that, if you need a little bit of WebSphere (and a lot of other IBM products), the lowest entry price (smallest license you can order) is for z/OS. You can order as little as 1 "Value Uni

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nerdfest ( 867930 )
        It all sounds like a very workable idea until you have to move from pretty much any other operating system to z/OS. The fact that JCL is still used anywhere astounds me. Once you're actually in a linux partition things are OK, but the rest of the environment is in need of serious usability improvements. There also seems to be a tendency to develop huge amounts of restrictive process around mainframes (a la 'The Difference Engine' almost) ...
        • First of all, there are five operating systems available for System z, including Linux and z/OS. You do not need z/OS to run Linux, although you do need Linux to run z/OS. (The Hardware Management Console is Linux-based.)

          But since you mentioned JCL (Job Control Language), a unique z/OS feature, it's interesting that UNIX doesn't seem to have any analog to it. (Shell scripts aren't really the same thing at all. They're more analogous to TSO and REXX.) It's certainly a simple syntax and arguably quite a bit

  • Before you get too excited about this, first price a mainframe. You first have to rewire your building for three-phase power, since they don't run on wall current. Then you've consolidated all your servers to one box, so you'd better have 24x7 uninterruptible power, and your current UPS generator likely doesn't supply 3-phase power. You also have to have adequate cooling, even with air-cooled z9 models. Then you have to buy a z9 (their entry level) and software, which is pretty expensive. Then you have to b
    • (Or, start on page 1 of the ABCs of Systems Programming five-volume set IBM publishes.... You won't be productive any time soon.)

      Or, (looking at the, umm, bright side) it could provide years of additional productive employment for all those about-to-retire early Boomers who didn't plan too well for their retirements.

    • Not sure what type of data center you are in, but we still need 3-phase power for some of our non-zSeries boxes. Most blade servers require it. Our non-zSeries boxes generate more heat and draw more power than our 2 zSeries servers combined and we only have about 70 small Intel/AMD based system. True you can't run x86 binaries on a zSeries, but you can't run zSeries binaries on a x86 and didn't seem to be a problem when everybody started to migrate away from the mainframe. Why should it be a problem to mi
  • ...please pay for your indulgences in this box. That's the benefit of being a Catholic, because we have got sin available to be indulged at a price that's right for you!
  • Are mainframes really 6 times more power efficient per MFLOP (or whatever unit) than blade servers? I thought the CPU was the main power hog in a server these days and I'm skeptical that there's so much difference between, say, an Opteron and a Power6. Is that true or is this a hype number?

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford