At first glimpse it might seem that spending cuts and straitened budgets mean any drive to adopt more environmentally sustainable ICT infrastructures, especially in the public sector, will fall by the wayside – although the road to hell is said similarly to be paved with good intentions.
However, speakers at this year’s Green IT Expo in London said rather that IT has an expanding role to play in the sustainability agenda. No mere good intention, green IT has the capability to cut costs and improve efficiency across a broad array of applications, processes, and services in both the public and private sector.
Christopher Mines, a senior vice president and research director specialising in tech vendor strategy at analyst group Forrester Research, said IT is a fundamental tool for creating sustainable business performance.
He said that heads of industry, across a wide range of industries, have already noticed this and are definitely putting their money where there mouth is when it comes to greening IT.
“Electrolux has announced it will slash energy use a further 15 per cent by 2012. Tesco has said: ‘We must go green.’ LG is investing $18bn in a 10-year plan to cut carbon and develop greener products. Ford is targeting a 30 per cent reduction in vehicle CO2 emissions by 2020,” Mines said. “China Mobile has a green action plan which targets a 40 per cent reduction in energy use.”
He said that Forrester’s research shows steadily increasing adoption of comprehensive green IT plans as well as specific initiatives like PC power management and server virtualisation or consolidation. IT leaders must next move to apply their expertise and assets to help the rest of the enterprise improve sustainability as well as help marshal resources, form partnerships and catalyse action across diverse groups of stakeholders.
“Stakeholders across the corporation either care, or will care, about sustainability,” Mines said.
This suggests that the channel must also apply its not-inconsiderable wit to the business of sustainable IT. It is not merely a nice to have – it may make the difference between growing customer sales as a true business enabler or being seen merely as a functionary partner who does not see the bigger picture or understand the pressures.
Reducing cost and growing revenue is a given in most if not all organisations – even in the public sector, especially now – alongside mitigating risk and delivering for shareholders, customers, and other stakeholders. And businesses already see IT has playing a critical role here, according to Mines, who pointed to Forrester’s annual Global Green IT survey for proof.
Of 649 IT professionals employed by SMBs and global enterprises polled in 2009 for the survey, 44 per cent said IT has a central role in both planning and executing their organisation’s overall sustainability strategy.
Collated responses from the survey from 2007-2010 (which had different numbers of respondents each time) suggested that 60-70 per cent of the firms polled are motivated in their sustainability drive because they believe it can reduce energy costs as well as improve their brand. Another 30-40 per cent see sustainability as reducing other costs as well. Only 20 per cent cited the main drive as being regulatory compliance, noted Mines.
Mines said green IT has a role to play flowing out from the datacentre and its associated systems (IT systems management, virtualisation, building automation) to distributed IT (PC power management, thin clients, managed print services), business process and strategy (carbon management, supply chain optimisation, teleworking), and public policy (smart cities and grids, climate change policy).
Interest in carbon and energy management systems as well is gradually rising, according to Forrester, and spending on ‘smart’ computing will partly fuel the rebound in tech spend beyond 2010.
“So when it comes to the greener datacentre [for instance], what’s the hold-up?” he said. “Companies capture business results from green IT in many different forms.”
IT providers must partner with other business process organisations such as procurement, facilities and operations to lead the quest for sustainability, concluded Mines.
Two real-world views
Several organisations presented their experiences with green IT, including the Eden Project, and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
Jon Curry, director of HR and ICT at Cornwall’s Eden Project, said the conservation attraction and initiative was seeking to improve its energy use and efficiency. Over time, it wants to reduce travel costs, improve supply chain management, and improve its carbon accounting.
“Between five and ten per cent of total power use on site is the result of computing
systems so IT is a significant user,” Curry said. “We are doing server virtualisation, desktop virtualisation, power management, printing [improvements], purchasing policies, and waste management.”
Eden has scheduled power-on and power-off for tills and PCs now as well as automatically power down servers when underutilised. It has reduced printing costs through the adoption of default duplex and monochrome, with a view to deploying ‘follow me’ technology that means machines won’t print out until (or unless) the authorised user actually goes to the printer to pick up the document, Curry said.
He is also looking at buying new MFP and PC hardware that is more eco-friendly.
“We are trialling new things, like the Xerox solid ink printers which reduce consumables waste,” said Curry. “We mean to have fewer, bigger printers, and look at EPEAT-certified monitors and desktops from Lenovo, as well as Kyocera printers. Kyocera is the only manufacturer to use a ceramic drum that lasts the life of the printer, thus reducing consumables and waste.”
Eden now has three VMware ESXi servers running on a NetApp FAS2010 storage array. By year two of the three year project, Eden had reduced its 25 physical servers to those three. The return on investment (RoI) happened earlier than expected, Curry said, and the organisation also achieved 40 per cent de-duplication of data.
“We got RoI in 18 months from a £75,000 investment, with savings of £60,000 over three years. Power savings and greener IT saved £10,000 per annum. We also got improved performance and ability to react quicker to new development requests, and failover between the servers,” Curry said.
“The next phase will be breathing new life into seven-year-old PCs.”
Eden is also piloting eight training-room PCs, and 10 hot desks targeting laptop users for a new more thin-client based environment, said Curry.
Nick Napier, head of ICT and deputy financial director at ZSL, said the London and Whipsnade zoos have moved to an increasingly virtualised set-up.
“By virtualising everything we could, we are now using less energy, producing less carbon emissions, and ultimately saving costs in the process. I also got a full disaster recovery site in the process – something that would have been almost impossible to achieve for me using the previous technologies and with the resources I have in my team,” Napier said.
ZSL also has a large scientific research team in the Institute of Zoology, and runs conservation programmes in 40 countries. The organisation turns over £42 million a year and has 550 staff. Revenue is earned from the 1.5 million zoo visitors a year, as well as extensive retail, catering, events and hospitality operations, Napier said.
“Our server room is full, and our power and air-con maxed out. We have ageing servers, and poor storage refresh time,” he said. “We found S3 Consulting – they built trust and confidence. And we have 12 servers virtualised [now] with power savings of £10,000 per annum. Future phases could deliver the storage refresh.”
ZSL’s IT environment now runs on three blades, with 27 physical servers retired and all data mirrored at a new disaster recovery site built at Whipsnade Zoo. Regent’s Park now uses a new NetApp offering. This phase was completed within a matter of a couple of months, and ZSL began to see savings immediately.
Annual energy consumption has been reduced by 24.5kW, and annual carbon dioxide emissions by 143 tonnes, said Napier.
Chris Bullock, chief executive officer at virtualisation provider S3 Consulting -- a member of the Climate Savers Computing Initiative -- told attendees that the average desktop wastes half the power it consumes – meaning it doesn’t use half the energy it uses to do the tasks it is valued for.
“A computer uses up to 10W when it is turned off yet still plugged in. And 78 per cent of desktops still don’t utilise power management,” Bullock said. “Addressing the problem makes fiscal sense.”
Climate change for green IT
Peter Hopton, chief executive officer at green-PC system builder VeryPC, said the climate around green IT is “definitely changing” in the UK.
“IT uses lots of electricity. Electricity costs money; as a general rule of thumb, one Watt costs £1 a year. A typical PC rates at 115W, according to Gartner and some servers are 450W-plus. Credit Suisse, for example, found IT was responsible for 50 per cent of its electric bill,” Hopton said.
With the increasing pressure on public sector services not only to cut carbon emissions in response to international and national regulations but to reduce costs overall, sustainable, eco-efficient IT has never been more important. Schools in particular are experiencing increasing cost pressures as they use more IT and stay open longer hours, said Hopton.
Bob Crooks, green ICT programme manager at Defra, said the government is doing what it can to encourage a move to greener IT. David Cameron has been quoted as saying that he wants his government to be the greenest government ever, and that government departments must cut their carbon emissions by at least 10 per cent in the next 12 months.
And progress is being made and can substantially improve the state’s financial position, according to Crooks.
“The public sector spends £16bn per annum on IT services, representing 4.6 per cent of overall public expenditure. It employs 35,000 IT professionals – some 10 per cent of the UK IT workforce. Typically, IT services are between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of a department’s CO2 footprint. Around 70 per cent of that footprint lies in the supply chain,” he said.
Crooks said the 70 per cent estimate was only a draft finding but was based on CO2 per pound sterling.
“We want smarter, cheaper, and greener ICT for the public sector through common infrastructure that is secure and flexible; common standards for security, interoperability, and government buying; and common capabilities,” Crooks said.
“We want savings rising to some £3.2bn per annum by 2020.”
Hosted applications and cloud computing could be a big part of how some of the savings would be achieved, Crooks added.
Martyn Storey, UK and Ireland system engineer manager [check!} at VMware, said the vendor believed its virtualisation technology alone had already saved enough power to run the entire nation of Denmark by the end of 2008.
“At the end of 2008 VMware calculated the energy savings from all the VMs that were running from the server virtualisation licences that we had sold to date. The resulting figure was equivalent to the annual power consumption of the country of Denmark,” he told attendees. “As this was nearly two years ago, we could probably say a larger country’s name now!”
Fifty per cent of traditional datacentre electricity bills were from running the servers and storage, and another 34 per cent was just for the computer room air-conditioning. Electricity use across the world since 2000 has gone on rising, Storey added.
“There is a cost of power and cooling that can amount to 725 Megawatts per 100 servers per year,” he said. “In many cases, there simply isn’t enough power supply to support the new application growth a business needs, so it becomes critical to make the most out of one’s existing power supply and infrastructure investment.”
And that means greener solutions.
Climate Savers Computing Initiative +1 (503) 619 0655
Forrester Research +44 207 323 7730
S3 Consulting +44 845 686 0530
VeryPC +44 845 034 5017
VMware +44 800 032 7597
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