Taking the initiative is generally a good thing, and vendors are often keen on enhancing and updating their channel programmes. But what incentives are vendors offering VARs to sell green IT?
Simon Jackson, vice president of Northern Europe for NEC Display Solutions, said the greener features of its products are complemented with features such as carbon metering and eco-modes. It is promoting such things as white LEDs and public displays sold with feet as an option because research shows that most users do not need the feet.
The vendor has worked to qualify for Electronic Product Environment Assessment Tool (EPEAT) certification. “Customers are asking for greener products now,” he said.
Online costing tools
NEC is backing this up with initiatives that reward customers not only for buying these greener products but for actually using their eco-efficient features.
“We have the EcoFive programme,” said Jackson.
“It is primarily targeting the public sector and education because, for EA series desktop LCDs run in eco-mode, we will extend the warranty from three to five years. We will also include collection of old LCDs and CRTs free of charge there normally is a charge now and they need to be delivered to the reseller in quantities of 10.”
EcoFive is a bolt-on to NEC’s reseller web site and programme SolutionsPlus, which includes online tools that help dealers sell greener IT by working out the concrete cost savings associated with deploying a particular display with a certain configuration including parameters such as life expectancy, cost per kW, display size and so on.
“So that helps people first of all understand the cost of their product and compare that with other products,” said Jackson. “People really need to consider the running costs, especially in the public sector. It is more than just capex and opex.”
Eben Owen, solutions channel manager at Emerson Network Power (ENP), has gone hands-on with its sweeteners.
“The main initiative we have launched via the channel is a datacentre assessment service,” he said.
Initially, the service is free for resellers, but progresses to different levels of walk-through investigation and consultancy.
It aims to plug the skill gaps for IT resellers that might be selling uninterruptible power supply (UPS) offerings, but do not have the broader range of often non-IT skills required to help customers improve the overall energy efficiency of their datacentres.
“At entry level, we provide a 50,000ft view of the customer datacentre and what its business objectives are and what they want to do,” said Owen.
“Then we walk through the datacentre and 90 per cent of the time can help that organisation with the low-hanging fruit in the physical or the IT layer.”
ENP will look at everything from rack organisation to whether they have blanking panels and so on, and communicates what it has seen to the customer. This is then tied into a carbon footprint calculation and how to best reduce emissions.
The vendor also has its own IT specialists work with the IT VARs, to cross the expertise divide.
“We can help them spot opportunities in the physical layer that they previously would not have looked at,” said Owen.
ENP can provide dealers with a total “scope of work” for their customers’ datacentres, site by site, and also with “decision assurance” documents that work out what their carbon footprint currently is and how they can reduce it.
Channel partners can get access to a demonstration centre for testing
“Perhaps three per cent of overall energy consumption in a datacentre can be down to lighting which may be left on 24x7,” said Owen. “And we have a new partner programme coming.”
Gary Fowle, channel and marketing director at Fujitsu, said the channel is not yet sufficiently focused on green IT but vendor incentives could assist.
“People are focused on things that can be included under the green IT banner, such as virtualisation, but I do not think there are a lot sold with a green IT message,” he said. “You are going to sell these products because they reduce costs.”
Fujitsu has a number of ‘green’ products, including 0W displays and PCs and the Dynamic Cube blade architecture, that are designed to save energy.
“The Dynamic Cube saves a minimum of 30 per cent of energy, out of the box,” said Fowle.
New storage line Eternus will also fit into the greener IT category via its drive spin-down technology.
Fujitsu does have programmes that encourage VARs to push its greener products. One programme supplies a specific green IT sales tool around its Primergy x86 servers.
“We supply free power monitors so resellers can show how much power a customer is saving, and online green calculators,” said Fowle. “We offer a complete installation support service, to make sure that they get those savings.”
Primarily for its tier-one channel partners, Fujitsu offers a “more aggressive” rebate scheme for its greener products. It is explicitly offering more margin to dealers that are successfully selling the greener products.
“The easiest thing for resellers to do is to just sell a standard desktop. So we are reflecting that,” said Fowle. “Lots of vendors have a performance-related rebate, but ours is larger for selling green products. It is a cash rebate, effectively.”
Marc Groetelaars, director of the northern EMEA partner organisation at VMware, said the virtualisation vendor offers various tools to help partners deliver solutions around green IT.
“One of the most popular is the green calculator on our web site which allows you to work out exactly what the green benefits of virtualisaton in an organisation might be,” said Groetelaars.
The popular sales tool gives partners a straightforward way to help customers accurately assess how virtualisation fits into their green IT and corporate social responsibility policies.
VMware has also rolled out a seminar-in-a-box programme that VARs may access through its Partner Central portal. Resellers can run seminars for end users on specific topics.
“The Green IT seminar-in-a-box has proven particularly popular because it really cuts through a lot of the hype surrounding this topic,” added Groetelaars.
“These seminars give partners a great opportunity to engage with potential customers in an environment that can really stimulate a great deal of excitement and momentum for green IT.”
He adds that government-backed incentives specifically for green IT may not be far away and should be a great boost for partners.
“In Ireland, Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) announced that certain energy efficient servers and storage arrays would qualify for what they call the Accelerated Capital Allowance (ACA), which effectively gives tax breaks to organisations buying energy efficient equipment,” added Groetelaars.
“Virtualisation software is included in the ACA scheme under the server
VMware was at the time of writing in the process of submitting its product for inclusion. In the next six months the vendor plans to push for a similar scheme to start in the UK, which it believes could have a huge effect on reseller opportunities around green IT.
Liz Grant, volume team leader at IBM, said Big Blue which signed its own first environmental policy in 1971 has a series of initiatives that help the channel sell greener solutions.
“The reason for that is investing in greener IT is just good financial management and corporate social responsibility,” she said. “We take a total cost of ownership (TCO) perspective. If you just come out and try to sell green, especially with the pressures that businesses are under today, it will not work.”
Longer payment terms
IBM has also partnered with VMware in an eco-efficient x-server initiative around which it has found firms get RoI in two months. IBM Global Finance is also offering customers that buy the solutions three-month repayment terms.
“The customer is making money before they have to pay for the equipment installed,” said Grant.
Criteria for eligibility are “industry standard”, she added.
In June, IBM held two reseller meetings aimed at educating customers around green IT. Other VAR training is held online, which is not compulsory although IBM “strongly encourages” partners to participate, said Grant.
Meanwhile, Big Blue’s Green Lab Showcase in the IBM Innovation Center theatre at Hursley demonstrates integrated rack solutions that cool hardware efficiently and encourage server consolidation. It also shows energy use, via Tivoli Service Management monitoring of individual blade servers.
The Hursley centre with IBM ISV and Developer Relations is helping about 50 ISVs develop greener solutions that could become part of IBM’s Green Lab Sho wcase and Ready for Energy and Environment programmes.
“IBM also has one of the largest recycling operations so as part of its leasing programmes we will take back product,” said Grant. “We recycle a vast quantity of the material that we take back, because just one per cent goes to landfill.”
Ready for IBM Energy and Environment is a technical validation for Big Blue’s Business Partners, just announced in February. The logo and criteria identify IBM Business Partner offerings designed and demonstrated to offer energy and environment benefits.
“This is designed to help IBM Business Partners validate, market and sell solutions bearing a unique mark that assures clients the product or service has been rigorously evaluated and demonstrated to reduce environmental impact based on real-world customer use,” said Grant.
It is aimed at resellers that develop software, hardware or services including IBM technology or services. The offerings must demonstrate customer-documented, measurable sustainability benefits.
The validation process requires products and services to help reduce the use of resources such as energy, water and paper materials.
“These requirements, established by the IBM Energy and Environment Review Board, are based on IBM’s long history of environmentally responsible practices in its own operations, as well as extensive experience in helping clients around the world address energy, environment, and sustainability issues and opportunities,” said Grant.
“All submissions will be reviewed by this board and IBM’s Corporate Environmental Affairs.”
Validated partners can also join in with IBM online marketing campaigns, speaking opportunities and free technology showcases at any of IBM’s 42 Innovation Centers globally.
IBM developerWorks hosts the Green IT Report, an on-line repository for IT professionals interested in learning about adding energy efficiency to their offerings.
“Our products and services are focused not only on improving the direct energy consumption and associated CO2 emissions of IT itself, but applying IT to help solve energy and climate challenges,” said Grant.
A representative for Dell said that it had been concentrating on developing greener, more energy-efficient and cost-effective hardware, software and services.
“That is in terms of manufacturing and packaging and servers, etc. Dell is taking a more holistic approach, rather than coming at it in terms of, say, rebates,” he said.
“Dell feels quite strongly that you are either green or you are not.”
That said, he hinted that specific channel incentives could well be on the
Resellers and analysts may broadly agree with the vendor’s eye view on channel initiatives and incentives around selling more green IT. Yet while vendor approaches so far have been welcomed, it seems that more might be done.
Tashweka Anderson, manager of the sustainable IT business for corporate reseller Computacenter, said a lot of vendors are selling green IT. Although environmental issues in themselves are not new they have become central.
“Quite a few vendors are proactive. We get a lot that contact us saying they have a green product and can we evaluate it and partner them,” she said. “Some are traditional IT vendors such as HP, IBM or Cisco. And some you may not have heard of before such as Best Foot Forward (BFF).”
BFF is not an IT vendor but an environmental consultancy. Anderson confirmed that one of the biggest challenges in selling green IT is that it is not around products so much as looking at the big picture and figuring out how each company can go green.
This is multi-disciplinary and holistic meaning one-time IT resellers now need to skill up on non-IT knowledge around such topics as architecture, air-conditioning, environmental science and hazardous waste disposal.
This not only makes the role of VAR more interesting and relevant but means help with this education process is needed from vendors and others, said Anderson.
Vendor initiatives include Cisco’s EnergyWise ecosystem and its architecture on the Catalyst switching range, which is accompanied by an online calculator for savings and working out the business value of the technology.
Various datacentre assessment services and tools are available from its vendor partners.
“There are quite a few. But I think the challenge for us is really comparing offerings,” said Anderson. “There are so many. Rewards, incentives and so on can only help. I think it would provide quite a lot of traction.”
One area that comes to mind for Anderson is financing. Customers are wary of investing in greener IT when they fear taking a hit to the back pocket. Anything that brings forward RoI will help sales.
“They say, ‘we understand that green IT in the long run will provide lower TCO’, but in the current economic climate, organisations are having difficulty finding the investment,” she said.
“Help around financing for VARs to entice customers [to buy green IT] would provide a big impetus. And I personally do not know of many [such ini tiatives].”
Existing financial assistance programmes tend to be about shifting kit rather than rewarding VARs for promoting such things as energy efficiency or waste reduction. That appears to be something of a gap in the market that vendors could seize to help the channel sell greener IT.
“I think that is part of the larger challenge, in that people see green IT as perhaps a bit esoteric,” said Anderson, adding that green IT education needs to be integral in offerings, and in reseller programmes, rather than just about specific ‘green’ products or features or having green IT as little more than a marketing add-on.
“VARs and vendors need to get together and really demystify sustainable IT,” she said. “We need awareness programmes that demystify sustainable IT for VARs and customers. And we need better articulation of the benefits and have them tied to customer pain points and challenges.”
Vendors such as IBM are doing things through the Green Sigma Coalition and similar, but more such initiatives are needed, she said.
Global consultancy Ovum suggests that green IT sales may prove a long-term win, when the sales are as they must be focused around raising efficiencies across business cost and process.
Alexander Simkin, senior analyst and process improvement specialist in Ovum’s IT services practice, said that a lot of chief financial officers (CFOs) view that process improvement and efficiency can cut costs.
“In the current economic environment, that is very appealing,” he said. “What they do not realise is that becoming agile or lean requires major change management. If starting from a base of traditional processes, these approaches will not provide rapid cost reduction.
"The efficiency of your processes may even get worse before they get better. CFOs need to know that and it is a chief information officer’s job to educate them.”
This suggests that VARs too if they want to be successful in their own consultancy and value-added solution sales around green IT have a role in showing what can be achieved, while taking care to point out where savings can be realised.
Agile and lean process improvement methodologies can reduce waste in IT sy stems and software development, but the RoI can be slow. In fact, the economic tide might turn before process improvement methods which often take long to implement and are resource-intensive can deliver.
Those that have already have got busy with process improvement via IT waste reduction have attained competitive advantage.
“Organisations that are only now seeking to improve their IT processes should consider methods that are optimum now and beyond the recession,” said Simkin. “Lean Six Sigma is a good choice.”
However, he added that when the economy improves, the cost-cutting agenda will wane and other priorities such as improving the quality of processes will become more desirable.
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