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Archive for the ‘Sustainable Development’ Category

by: John McClure
06  Feb  2014

A Tale of 30 Nuclear Plants

In 2012 the New York Times commissioned a study showing that worldwide, server farms’ energy use is equivalent to 30 nuclear power plants, roughly 2 percent of all electricity used. In fact, the report continued “energy efficiency varies widely from company to company … on average, they were using only 6 percent to 12 percent of the electricity powering their servers to perform computations. The rest was essentially used to keep servers idling and ready in case of a surge in activity that could slow or crash their operations.”

Okay, let’s do the math. This means industry data centers are seriously inefficent to the tune of about 27 billion watts each year, and undoubtedly growing since 2010. And that doesn’t count the huge, spinning flywheels or thousands of lead-acid batteries ready to take over when electrical fluctuations occur.

“It’s just not sustainable,” said Mark Bramfitt, a former utility executive. “It’s a waste,” said Dennis P. Symanski, a senior researcher at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a nonprofit industry group.

Why is this happening? “You do have to take into account that the explosion of data is what aids and abets this,” said Mr. Taylor of the Uptime Institute. “At a certain point, no one is responsible anymore, because no one, absolutely no one, wants to go in that room and unplug a server.” How did this come about? “We’ve overprovisioned … for years,” as Mr. Cappuccio, managing vice president and chief of research at Gartner, explained. “Let’s overbuild just in case we need it” he says, agreeing with Mr. Symanski of EPRI who shares that “they don’t get a bonus for saving on the electric bill. They get a bonus for having the data center available 99.999 percent of the time.”

With ever-growing energy needs, there’s no surprise data centers are among electrical utilities’ most prized customers. But “what’s driving that massive growth is the end-user expectation of anything, anytime, anywhere,” said David Cappuccio, a managing vice president and chief of research at Gartner, the technology research firm. “We’re what’s causing the problem.”

Problems & Solutions. It’s time to come to the aid of your country! The near-term consequences — absolute climate chaos — are simply too much a threat to soft-pedal what we all must now do.

Contact one of the many “green solutions” providers springing up every day who help enterprises significantly reduce ongoing server farm energy requirements. Hire industrial engineers as site-wide evangelists who specifically develop champion and monitor compliance to energy-saving programs.

Without immediate strong commitment to reducing energy use for whatever reasons important to an enterprise then it’s possible, just possible, the enterprise isn’t operating in the best interests of its shareholders, its customers, its workforce or ultimately, itself.

Indeed, as Mr. Cappuccio (Gartner Grup) might ask: “How in the world can you run a business like that?”

Category: Sustainable Development
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by: John McClure
23  Dec  2013

Semantic Notations

In a previous entry about the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C)’s RDF PROVenance Ontology, I mentioned that it includes a notation aimed at human consumption — wow, I thought, that’s a completely new architectural thrust by the W3C. Until now the W3C has published only notations aimed at computer consumption. Now it is going to be promoting a “notation aimed at human consumption”! So here’s examples of what’s being proposed.
[1] entity(e1)
[2] activity(a2, 2011-11-16T16:00:00, 2011-11-16T16:00:01)
[3] wasDerivedFrom(e2, e1, a, g2, u1)

[1] declares that an entity named “e1″ exists. This could have been “book(e1)” presumably, so any subclass of prov:Entity can be referenced instead. Note: The prov:entity property and the prov:Entity class are top concepts in the PROV ontology.
[2] should be read as “activity a2, which occurred between 2011-11-16T16:00:00 and 2011-11-16T16:00:01″. An ‘activity’ is a sub-property of prov:influence, as an ‘Activity’ is a sub-class of prov:Influence, both top concepts in the PROV ontology.
[3] additional details are shown for a “wasDerivedFrom” event (a sub-property of prov:wasInfluencedBy, a top concept of the PROV ontology); to wit, that activity a, the generation g2, and the usage u1, resources are eacb related to the “wasDerivedFrom” relation.

The W3 syntax above is a giant step towards establishing standard mechanisms for semantic notations. I’m sure though this approach doesn’t yet qualify as an efficient user-level syntax for semantic notation however. First, I’d note that the vocabulary of properties essentially mirrors the vocabulary of classes — from a KISS view this ontology design pattern imposes a useless burden on a user, to learn two vocabularies of similar and hierarchical names, one for classes and one for properties. Secondly camel-case conventions are surely not amenable to most users (really, who wants to promote poor spelling?). Thirdly attribute values are not labelled classically (”type:name”) — treating resource names opaquely wastes an obvious opportunity for clarifications and discoveries of subjects’ own patterns of information as well as incidental annotations not made elsewhere. Finally a small point, is that commas are not infrequently found in names of resources causing problems in this context.

Another approach is to move around the strings in the notations above, to achieve a more natural reading to average English speakers. Using a consistent framework of verbs and prepositions for properties named verb:preposition, an approach introduced in an earlier entry, yields an intuitively more interesting syntax with possibilities for future expansion.
[1] has:this(Entity:e1)
[2] has:this(Activity:a2; Timestamp:2011-11-16T16:00:00; Timestamp:2011-11-16T16:00:01)
[3] was:from(Source:e2; Event:e1; Activity:a; Generation:g2; Usage:u1)
[4] was:from(Source:e1; Source:e2; Source:e3)

[1] declares that an annotation for a specific page (a subject) has a certain entity named e1, which may or may not exist (that is, be de-referenceable). e1 is qualified as of type “Entity”.
[2] By convention the first value in a set of values provided to a “property function” is the target of the namespaced relation “has:this” with the subject resource being the resource which is being semantically annotated. Each attribute value associated with the relation is qualified by the type of value that it is.
[3] The property wasDerivedFrom is here a relation with a target resource that is to be interpreted as a “Source” kind-of-thing, i.e., “role”. This relation shows four related (perhaps influential) resources.
[4] This is a list of attribute values acceptable in this notation, overloading the ‘was:from’ predicate function for a less tiresome syntax.

The chief advantages of this approach to semantic notations in comparison with the current W3C recommendation is first, that it eliminates the need for dual (dueling) hierarchies, by its adoption of a fixed number of prepositional properties. Second it is in a lexical sense formally more complete yet ripe with opportunities for improved semantic markup, in part by its requirement to type strings. Lastly it is intuitively clearer to an average user, perhaps leading to a more conducive process for semantic annotations.

Category: Data Quality, Enterprise Content Management, Enterprise Data Management, Information Development, Information Governance, Information Management, Information Strategy, Semantic Web, Sustainable Development
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by: Wmcknight
19  Jul  2012

Consulting Red Flags: Ten tips from the NBA to help a customer of consulting services secure a winning consulting arrangement

The NBA season is finally mercifully officially over although as a Warriors fan, it was over long ago. Congratulations to the Miami Heat on winning the championship.

I couldn’t help but think of the many parallels between the operation that is the NBA and how companies out there are engaging consultants. Here’s 10 observations.

1. Although there is some clustering, the NBA All-Star teams were stocked with players from 20 or so teams. Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant all play for different teams. If a consultancy puts forward its team as the all-league all-star team, with no deficiencies whatsoever, that is a red flag. All teams have them. Both sides should understand this and strive for a best fit, given the realities that talent gets spread around naturally.

2. Consulting teams need a winning formula. Do they know what it is? Will that work in your environment? For the Heat, it was LeBron and Wade. For the Lakers, its Kobe, Bynum and a solid supporting cast. For the Magic, it was Howard and defense first. Oklahoma City went deeper with a solid rotation. Other teams put all shooters on the floor or focus on defense.

3. I did not notice an NBA team, in an effort to save money, put the cheapest, most inexperienced player they could find on the court this season. Heck, there are people who would pay for the glory of playing. No, I think every team tried their best to win as many games as possible. If your consulting team consists of 3 solid players that you are presented with, with the rest to be named later, make sure they are not filling it out with the cheapest players they can find. Of course, that is misguided on their part as well, but sometimes you need to save the consultancies from doing the wrong thing for both of you.

4. Scores and game clocks are not kept in the referee’s head. The referee does not suddenly blow the whistle and say “game over, Suns win 104-99, goodbye.” The time and the score are kept on large scoreboards for all to see throughout the game. Do you have a scoreboard? Does your consultancy? It is important to know how much progress is being made throughout the game.

5. Beyond the starting 5, NBA benches are filled with world-class athletes, many of whom get as much or more playing time as starters. What is your consultancy’s bench? I’m not referring, necessarily, to their employees not on billing, but just what is their contingency plan in case of injury, sudden and unexpected poor performance or if a player were to leave in the middle of the game? Is the consultancy plugged into the culture of the discipline they are engaged in? Do they have a warm network? Do they scout?

6. NBA teams come to expect certain things from the places they play – things like fans, referees, locker rooms, food, transportation, hoops, lights, a marked court and basketballs to play with. What is your consulting team expecting from you? Software? Hardware? Requirements? Access to certain individuals? Physical space? The ability to network their laptops? It would be a drag to see the game try to start without a basketball or to have the lights go out in the 3rd quarter. Clear up expectations ahead of time with your consultancy.

7. When the Pistons show up to the American Airlines Arena in Miami, they expect the Heat to come out of the dressing room to play against. Imagine their surprise should the Warriors come out! Or they have to play against 6 players on the court. Now, they have game-planned for one team (5 players at a time) and get to play an entirely different team. This bit of surprise will not help the Pistons be successful that night. Is there information the consultancy is not asking for that they should be in order to know what they are up against?

8. Sure, playing basketball is fun. However, it’s also work. Players dive after loose balls, flying into the stands if necessary, and are expected to go all out with little consequence to their body. They need to be skilled at avoiding injury, but cannot play overly concerned with it. There are many moments in a consulting project where it’s less fun and more work. Are you hiring a consultancy that is prepared for the potential hard work ahead?

9. NBA teams shoot about 80 field goals per game, hitting less than half. Actually, only a handful of players in the league hit over 50 percent of their field goals. However, you can’t score or win if you don’t shoot. The Harlem Globetrotters are entertaining when they go into their circle and keep passing the ball, but you don’t see that in a real game. Is your consultancy willing to shoot, and are you willing to let them, even though half of the shots aren’t going in, or is the consultancy interested in making entertaining passes, perhaps back to you?

10. Finally, experience counts. At the NBA draft recently, I was reminded by the announcers that some of the second round picks would not even make the NBA. Only 60 players are drafted each year, all with eye-popping highlights from college and European leagues, and some won’t make it?! That’s how tough it is. Is your consultancy getting tough about their talent?

Category: Information Strategy, Product Ideas, Sustainable Development
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by: Sean.mcclowry
13  May  2011

OpenCCS: Applying lessons from MIKE2.0

So I’ve been REALLY bad about contributing to MIKE2.0 this past year and its taken a 3-hour train ride in the UK to get me writing again. Now is a good time for an update though as I’m fresh off a conference where I introduced OpenCCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) – which in many ways is inspired by MIKE2.0.

About a year ago I took a job at the Global CCS Institute to lead up knowledge sharing. Its been a great experience to move into the energy / climate change space. We’re doing some interesting things and OpenCCS is one of them. Like MIKE2.0, OpenCCS is a methodology to accelerate deployment of a certain kind of technology / process and attempts to help change and industry. The methodology works much the same way and I’m optimistic it will provide a lot of value to the industry. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Category: Sustainable Development
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by: Sean.mcclowry
15  Jul  2009


One of the topics I have been writing about for a while is the concept of open-sustainability. open-sustainability is an approach that applies-information centric techniques to solve challenges related to Sustainable Development. The complete framework for an integrated approach to sustainability is available at
but you can also read about it on the MIKE2.0 site.

We set up MIKE2.0 and open-sustainability so they work together, drawing in sustainability professional to have an information-centric view and information management professionals to the sustainability challenge.

One of the key principles is around balancing the different dimensions of the problem. Bill Johnston also wrote a good post on this subject. Only with sophisticated IM techniques can be find this balance – spreadsheets aren’t going to do the trick.

Category: Sustainable Development
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by: Sean.mcclowry
20  Jan  2008

Sustainable Development requires Information Development

Climate change is increasingly a mainstream issue. There is growing momentum to address the issue at a number of levels, in the corporate sector, with private citizens and within government.

There is, however, a real danger with the trend towards carbon neutrality that is analogous to the poor systems designs. As described by the United Nations, climate change is just 1 of the 36 areas of Sustainable Development. An Information Development approach can help:

  • Understand the impacts of decisions and how they impact other areas of Sustainability (e.g. how a programme that helps reduce a retailer’s carbon footprint by stopping imports from Africa impacts other areas).

  • Collaboratively develop standards and share lessons learned. This will be a major benefit as the transformation organizations must go through is so significant. This isn’t necessarily “trade secrets” but an open and transparent forum for them to share information.

  • Collaborative Business Intelligence platform to make objective decisions. Decisions can be based on a historical evidence and make us of historical models. Policy analysis, researches and the public can share different forms of information as part of the process.

  • Information Sharing across different organisations, involving operational and analytical information. Enablers include open and common standards, search and collaboration. Some information can be anynoymised while other content can seen by both parties.

  • Collaboratively develop standards and share lessons learned. This will be a major benefit as the transformation organizations must go through is so significant. This isn’t necessarily “trade secrets” but an open and transparent forum for them to share information.

  • Measure progress based on standard metrics. We need standards because when we don’t account for what we produce, we may get unexpected issues. Information Quality issues are analogous to the pollutants we see from poor sustainability design.

The Information Development approach to Sustainable Development can be applied to design the interaction points between the different areas. It also means the ability to make fact-based decisions, share information between systems and provide easy access to information from complex, federated sources.

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Category: Sustainable Development
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