Wednesday, July 4, 2012


‘Green computing’, like anything with a ‘green’ tag, can be hard to define. The label means different things to different people, and an IT department getting to grips with the subject can find it useful to start by trying to determine exactly what it understands by the term.

I’ve used the following definition to describe a green programmed of IT work:

Green IT is a collection of strategic and tactical initiatives which either:
» directly reduce the ‘carbon footprint’ of the organisation’s computing operation;
» use the services of IT to help reduce the organisation’s overall carbon footprint;
» incentivise and support greener behaviour by the organisation’s employees, customers and suppliers;
» ensure the sustainability of the resources used by IT.

The first of the categories above is where most of the focus of Green IT has been over the past couple of years. However, a green computing action plan should also look beyond what the IT organization is doing internally, and explore the possibilities for IT to act as an enabler for greening the rest of the company (potentially this is the area with the opportunity to make the biggest positive impact on a company’s carbon footprint). An example might be the development of a computer system to allow more intelligent vehicle scheduling for the organization's supply chain fleet.

The questions IT departments need to ask themselves right at the start, before launching into the ‘how we get there’ detail, are

» Why are we doing this?
» How green are we currently?
» How green do we want to be (and how soon)?

These questions will have different answers for different organizations working in different industry sectors. It is important that the IT department doesn’t simply try to answer the questions in isolation based on its own position, without placing them in the context of the overall green agenda of the organization.

For some companies, the answer to Why are we doing this? is simply a need to reduce overall energy costs. Other motivations may include a desire to improve customer confidence in the company’s products or services. It may be a matter of satisfying shareholders, meeting regulatory obligations or avoiding costs because of the environmental impact of the company’s actions. Some may be mindful of media attention or keen to foster a reputation as a green organization for competitive advantage. Employees’ concerns or even prospective employees’ expectations may influence some firms, while some will be looking to generate income by selling excess emissions allowances. And a few companies will still have a ‘why indeed?’ stance and be unconvinced by any of the above reasons of the need to act. Thankfully, this last group is becoming a smaller and smaller minority. Essentially, all of the reasons why? boil down to one of three overlapping drivers – reputation, cost, or company culture.

Often the IT department’s green aspirations will simply reflect the organisation’s overall green aspirations, which are in turn a reflection of its ‘corporate culture’. If there is a significant difference between the two, so that the green aspirations of an IT department significantly lead or lag the organisation’s overall green agenda or current credentials, then it’s worth knowing that as soon as possible, and the implications and perceptions of such a difference should be considered.

Too big a lag, and the advice to the IT department might be to start doing something soon before it is imposed from outside. A big lead and there is both an opportunity for IT to take a thought-leadership role in shaping the company’s overall green agenda but also a potential threat to the
funding of any Green IT initiatives if the organisation has not brought in to the merits of such a programme.

When considering the next question, How green are we currently?, my advice would be to address it simply. A good old-fashioned workshop session is probably the best way to gather the information you need. This is how we kicked off the Green IT programme within the John Lewis Partnership’s IT department. I recently dusted off the flipchart output from the first workshop on this subject, which I conducted towards the end of 2006 with colleagues from a cross-section of IT teams. On that occasion we simply used coloured cards to compile a list of ‘statements’ reflecting our existing green capabilities and significant gaps in capability.

Here are a few verbatim examples from that exercise:
» We measure datacenter electricity usage, but have less of an idea how much non-datacenter IT electricity we use. Ideally we’d like to measure usage in a more ‘granular’ way.

» We are supplied with manufacturers’ ratings for their equipment but these are not always easy to find and we have no easy way to compare these fairly and consistently.

» We don’t measure the power we need for cooling.

» As a result of the recent VMware consultancy, we know that our utilization rate for Wintel servers is approximately 8 per cent.

» We are fully WEEE1 compliant for IT, and we can measure/test this through site visits to the supplier. The cost of this arrangement is likely to increase this year.

» We perceive other recycling (e.g. paper, or packaging) in the department as an area we could improve.

» Because our systems are designed for resilience, half of the asset (or footprint) at any one time is not doing anything.

» We have some very old servers which cost us money to maintain.

» We make limited use of videoconferencing.

» We perceive our travel costs as too high.

» We comply with ROHSS rules for new servers.

Source of Information : Green IT in Practice
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