Dashboards (again)

The Team from Coventry University

The Team from Coventry University

Just back from London after a really successful workshop on dashboards, displays, reports and other measures to change user behaviour. This was held at the London campus of Coventry University. Strangely that is yo be found near Liverpool Street – and right across the road is the London Campus of UEA. Any other sightings of provincial universities London outlets should be reported here!

This was the 3rd workshop on this subject that we have run. It followed on from the on at Oxford last summer  – see an earlier blog psit for the presentation from that – and one held in the autumn in Manchester – see:


The workshop was an opportunity for the project team from Coventry University to talk about the CUSTOMER project – see an earlier blog posting  for details – which has been renamed following feedback from students as green@CU. Also presenting were teams from Manchester Metropolitan University on their engagement activities as well as The University of Bedford on their work in reducing energy use in labs (Project Delta).

A full report on the workshop, along with the presentations will appear on the Good Campus Website shortly:


What was of particular interest this time was the varied communities from which the participants had come and the amount of expertise. The discussion in the  small groups was very rewarding as it was instructed by people with handson experience of installing and running energy dashboards and behaviour change programmes around energy use, and people with a research interest in the field.

We are now looking at what further workshops on this and other topics on Green ICT we should be looking to run though 2012.

Students and the energy footprint of student residences

Customer SlideLast week I visited the CUSTOMER project at Coventry University. CUSTOMER stands for Coventry University STudents’ Optimisation and Management of Energy Resources and is one of the projects funded under the JISC Greening ICT Programme.

The rationale for the project is that residential energy use is accounting for just over 21% of the total energy use and CO2 emissions of the university (2008-09) HEFCE return). As with most universities, Coventry charges its students a flat fee to cover their rent and utility charges in its halls of residence, with a consequent lack of any financial or other incentives for students to be careful about this energy use. Indeed, it has not been possible for students to even know how much gas and electricity they and their fellow students were using.

CUSTOMER will try and see if there are ways to change this. They will do this by firstly installing meters for both electricity and gas (where appropriate) in a number of pairs of matched floors or units in three different halls of residence. The matched pairs are to allow for a control group. The three different sites have been chosen to represent a range of ages and types of student accommodation, from a 1970s tower block with a dining room for breakfast and dinner through a modern conversion of the old central post office in Coventry city centre to a part of the main residence which were built on the old Singer car factory site in the 1990s. Added to these are a number of individual houses that the university owns and rents to students.

The project will then see how best to engage with the students and connect them to the information that the meters will be producing. Various options are being explored, including working the university’s Serious Games Institute to produced simulations and feedback type interfaces that will allow students to investigate the impact of their behaviour change.

The project is overseen by the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Planning & Resource (Professor David Souter) and is a good example of cross-institutional working with involvement from IT services, Estates, Student Services, the Students Union, as well as academics from the Engineering & Computing Faculty and the Serious Games Institute.

For more information see the project blog:


and the details of the project plan etc:


Kit-Catalogue at Loughborough

Just finished a meeting with the project team from the Kit-Catalogue project at Loughborough University.

This project is taking an existing resource – a catalogue of equipment mostly of interest to engineering folk and making it into a resource that will be of use across the institution and the wider sector.

The underlying thesis of this project is that while there is a lot of expensive equipment in university laboratories and departments, other people in the same or a neighbouring institution are going out and buying another one. Kit-Catalogue aims to end this waste by firstly cataloguing all the equipment at Loughborough, and then making that information available to people across the university.

That’s the first step, later the plan is to involve local companies (there are some big engineering companies not far from the university and with whom the university has good links) as some of them have indicated that they have kit in their R&D facilities that could be of use to researchers. There is also interest from the research funding councils who now mandate that before a grant is made to buy new kit, the grant seeker must be able to show that they have satisfied themselves that the kit does not already exist and is available to use.

The intention is to release this system (its PHP and MySQL) as an open source offering, and to promote its uptake across the sector. One possibility is to have a kind of syndicated Kit-Catalogue, with local catalogues at institutions but the data available on a regional or even national basis.

Maybe we can link Scope 3 emissions data to items in the catalogue to show the environmental savings?

The project website is here:


Presentations available

As I am unable to embed other content in this blog I have added the presentations from the recent “Metering and Managing Energy Consumption in Data Centres” workshop we held up in Leeds. See:


For the slides with concurrent audio track of the speakers – thanks to VCASMO for the technology to do this.

Metering and Managing Energy Consumption in Data Centres

There was a good turn out for the multiple JISC funded project workshop on Metering and Managing Energy Consumption in Data Centres held on the 12th July in Leeds. Delegates from a good number of universities across the UK, and a visitor from Dublin came together to discuss the issues around what to meter, how to meter it and how to use this data to drive improvements in data centre efficiency.

This workshop was a joint venture between these JISC funded projects:

First up was Roland Cross from Leeds Met, who described their work to improve their currently inefficient data-centre, while taking the time to meter and measure things to see just where the power is going.. They are tacking this through a combination of power upgrades, changes to air handling, hot/cold aisle separation and further virtualisation.

Roland’s presentation was followed by Colin Love from the University of London Computer Centre (ULCC). ULCC is a major co-lo site for HE and being able to charge their customers in relation to the power that they are using is of obvious interest to them.

Chris Cartledge, late of the University of Sheffield spoke next. He described the state of play with the university’s data centres. The picture is one that is probably familiar to a lot of people in the sector. This means plant and facilities that were built before people got really interested in data centre energy use, with poor air circulation and handling with mixing of the air flows.

Through all this discussion we keep coming back to a number of what are becoming familiar themes. One is the variable nature of metering – what do we meter and how? Do we meter at the power distribution board or at the rack or the individual box? What about metering embedded in the box itself?

Sheffield (with the help of funding from Salix) are working to make things better. A hot aisle is being introduced in one of the data centres, with a cold aisle in the other there there is no ceiling void. Racks will be sealed to prevent air mixing.

Sheffield is also working with the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres. The University now includes the cost of energy in some VFM calculations.

“By metering you are not changing anything!” The invetsment in metering only makes sense when you do something with the information.

After coffee and biscuits Michael Rudgyard from Concurrent Thinking spoke. Michael’s background was in HPC, and he has come to his current approach from a belief that a data centre needs to be holistically managed and monitored. He said that PUE is a good metric for planning a data centre, but is not much use for monitoring a DC. What is more important is how much of data centre energy is actually being used to do useful computing work? Should we be looking to develop a metric like “ITUE”? This could be on the basis of page impressions/watt, database transactions/watt, widgets sold/watt.

He identified a number of steps that can be taken. One is to identify and to eliminate servers that are doing nothing useful and making sure that equipment is up to date working properly. Another is the dynamic orchestration of virtual machines based on environmental, power and IT usage constraints. It’s also worth looking at active power management of servers during low utilisation periods.

Turning to what he termed “The Problem of Scale” Michael highlighted the drive for consolidation in organisations and across the sector with Cloud computing. Big cloud providers are driving efficiency by building their own servers and removing redundant equipment and writing their own software to be more efficient.

He went on to talk about some of the features of the two products that Concurrent Thinking are bringing to market. This includes Concurrent Command and Concurrent Control – more details here:


Energy Dashboards and user behaviour

We had a really useful and enjoyable workshop at Oxford last week on the subject of dashboards displaying energy use and their effect (or not) on user behaviour. The reason for holding this workshop was to start bringing together some of the work that is going on in this area (some funded by JISC, some not) in a number of universities. It is also apparent from a number of conversations that there is quite a lot of this sort of activity going on in schools, local authorities and the private sector. Four institutions presented about their work:

University of Oxford

Open to Change Project

De Montfort University

DUALL and Greenview Projects

University of Bradford

Project DELTA

University of Manchester

Sustainability Manchester

Videos of the presentations with associated PowerPoint are available at:


PAWS at Aberystwyth University

Good to see the work developing on the Power Down and Wake System project that JISC is funding under it’s Greening ICT Programme.

PAWS is designed to be an open source alternative to the various commercial packages that are in use around the sector. It will also provide a cost-effective solution for those sites that have no decent PC Powerdown solution.

PAWS is written in Java and will be cross platform and generic enough to be applicable to a lot of institutions and outside the sector.

PAWS is being developed and tested at Aberystwyth at present, but will be field tested at a couple of other Welsh institutions before being released to the open source community at the end of the year. The team will also be providing user documentation.

Follow the progress of PAWS at: http://paws.aber.ac.uk/

and find further information about PAWS and other projects funded under the Greening ICT Programme at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/greeningict/technical/paws.aspx

Do Shared Service make Sense?

Interesting debate today at the Data Centre Efficiency event that the SusteTECH project has put on in Bristol. John Milner from the JISC laid out the case for the JISC run, HEFCE inspired Universities Modernisation Fund in providing a brokerage service that will deliver cost efficient cloud resources for the sector. The debate is around whether this type of provision can match a properly designed and engineered local institutional data centre.


Another pint being made is that PUE is a bit of a trap as a measurement of data-centre efficiency. Because PUE is a simple ratio of IT energy  load against total energy load for the data centre, it can hide the fact that one way to tackle the question of data centre energy use is to start to address the IT load. How can we do this? Projects like the Cardiff University Planet Filestore project show one approach to reducing the load by shifting seldom accessed files to lower tiered storage, but there are other approaches that might provide some ways to tackle this. One is to look at the efficiency of the software and its use of computing resources, another to look at the overall provision of IT – and here the work of JISC’s Flexible Service Delivery Programme has relevance as it is helping institutions to makes sure that their IT provision is actually aligned to the needs of the business.

All in all, a very stimulating and enjoyable morning, with a visit to the University of Bristol’s HPC facility to round things off.

Round 2 of Innovation Projects

I’m just back from the second Greening ICT Programme meeting where we welcomed a new gang of eager innovators to the Green ICT Community and JISC. This is always one of the best bits of my job when I get to meet the people I am going to be working with for the next year or so.

We have three major strands of work under way:

  • Technical Innovation
  • Estates led projects
  • Exemplars of institutional transformation

The purpose of the first strand is ti get the developer community in the sector engaged with the Green ICT agenda. The second strand is all about engaging the interest and expertise of the Estates community, while the third is looking to move beyond the “carbon” agenda to see if we can find ways that  ICT can start to help institutions transform themselves to become more sustainable.

More information on the programme and the individual projects funded is to be found at: