Green IT: Beyond the hype

Green IT: Beyond the hype

Green IT: Beyond the hype

Although heavy-handed messaging has led to a great deal of scepticism in the market, there’s no doubting that environmental concerns are creating serious market opportunities. ARN recently brought together a group of IT industry thought-leaders to talk about myths and margins.

Brian Corrigan, ARN (BC): We are all using the phrase ‘green IT’ but what does it actually mean?

Chris Fasseau, IBM (CF): IBM has been pushing green IT for more than 15 years – we publish our own emissions through a third party and have an internal project called Big Green that will double our datacentre capability by 2010 without increasing electricity usage or carbon emissions. That’s what we take out to customers. You have to take the myth out of green IT because it delivers real business value. We [IT users] double our computing every couple of years and power requirements are four times greater so, unless we do something now, datacentres built 10-15 years ago just aren’t going to cope.

David Blackman, VMware (DB): Fundamentally we need to transform IT and the way it has been done historically is with big beefy datacentres. Green from an IT perspective is about power and cooling. There are lots of restrictions on power availability so how do we reduce that demand? At the same time, how do we give users the flexibility to move into future IT based on cloud computing, Software as a Service or whatever you want to call it? It’s providing great opportunity for the IT community to transform IT and make an organisation more flexible, but also more responsible for the care of the planet.

Thomas Fikentscher, Ingram Micro (TF): You need to understand the carbon footprint of your own organisation, your business partners and the end users in order to assess whether you are complying with regulations. Technology can then be applied to reduce your carbon footprint and adjust to future compliance issues. We have been looking to use our broad knowledge of technology internally while also talking to business partners to see if they have an understanding of what green IT really means and how they can use it for future services.

BC: So how are the resellers around the table taking the green IT message to market?

Andrew Peel, Datacom (AP): We are finding [green IT] requirements in a lot of tender activity now and discussions we are having suggest commercial customers have made the shift. They are starting to talk about green IT in the same way government does. Green IT isn’t fluffy – it has solid outcomes and efficiencies – and when you talk about it on that level it really connects with customers. The concept or sound bite level is where you tend to lose people.

Alison O’Flynn, Fujitsu (AO): We have seen a shift in market perception away from green IT being seen as a cost because there are real benefits. We think of green IT in two areas – we need to reduce the environmental impact of IT itself through our products, then use technology as an enabler. Fujitsu has a longstanding green policy and we are very lucky to leverage the work that has been done in Japan. We’ve gone to market there with objectives to save 30 million tonnes of CO2 by 2010 on behalf of our customers. It’s about positioning the strategic link between business and IT at the start rather than just talking about an IT project. What are the strategic outcomes and what can IT contribute to corporate goals around sustainability? Once you start to talk in that context, it opens up a range of opportunities instead of focusing on costs. That’s the big difference.

Iain Smale, Carbon Planet (IS): Clients that want to lower their emissions are looking at green IT because it gives them a credible statement to go to market with. I was talking to a major company in Sydney that has been told by its UK parent to reduce emissions by 20 per cent before 2010 and IT is a major focus in delivering that.

Tony Heywood, ComputerCorp (TH): In the mid-market, directors have the best intentions without necessarily having the ability to execute. That’s led to the rise of a plethora of companies such as Carbon Planet that are focused exclusively on helping organisations reduce their carbon footprint. From a director’s point of view there’s a triple play now – people, planet, profit. There are all sorts of definitions on the Web about what green IT is but, at the end of the day, a business is in business to make a profit. If they want to demonstrate economic, environmental and social responsibility in doing so then green IT, unlike Y2K, is a platform on which they can deliver it.

Peter Kazacos, PKBA (PK): That’s a bit of a dilemma because we’ve had kickback from customers that think this is another Y2K. One of the issues is that new software often requires new hardware. The old hardware gets chucked out and that leaves us open as an industry to suggestions that we’re not producing efficient software that can utilise existing hardware. Everybody has bought into the whole thing about server consolidation and using less power – it’s a good thing for the environment and for their pocket – but when they start talking about the desktop we are asking them to throw the old ones out. There are only so many the kids can have and they want new ones too.

TH: Virtualising the desktop has huge impetus for green IT because it will mean we can give the same power to users with much less infrastructure.

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