Sustainability Issues an Important Consideration

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London —Jan. 15
Sustainability has become a significant issue for every enterprise and is particularly pertinent for IT management, which must focus on supporting the requirements of the organization in this area. This is one of the key conclusions of the report, Sustainable IT Provision – Meeting the Challenge of Corporate, Social, and Environmental Responsibility, published by Butler Group, Europe’s leading IT research and advisory organization. According to the report, the challenges of meeting these responsibilities have brought into sharp focus the need for IT to be more proactive, along with including the required capabilities into IT strategy and governance procedures.

“New opportunities continue to emerge which enable organizations to work in a more environmentally friendly way. Innovative organizations can make the most of these openings to gain a leadership position ahead of the competition. Yet many enterprises are failing to act and have not yet recognized the fact that business as usual is no longer an option. IT management and the use of new technologies have a great opportunity to take a leading role in assisting the organization in meeting these social expectations,” said Mark Blowers, senior research analyst and co-author of the study.

“Two ways in which the IT organization can help to improve the situation are by enabling measurement of the exposure to climate change and by increasing the efficiency of IT operations, which comprise such an important part of the overall foundations for the organization.”

IT management has an opportunity to take the lead by being proactive in supporting the sustainability objectives of the organization.

There is increasing prominence being placed on the ability of IT deliverables to match organizational sustainability objectives. Unfortunately, there still appears to be a lack of focus by IT management on understanding the organization’s main goals in this area. Without this, it is impossible to formulate an IT strategy that will meet the organization’s sustainability needs. To facilitate this IT must improve the flexibility and efficiency of its operations and measure performance related to environmental and social objectives.

Those taking an interest in environmental aspects of life may have already come across the mantra of the Three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle. Butler Group has added a fourth for the IT manager — re-engineer — which encompasses the approaches and technologies that need some investment in resources to bring to fruition but can be a significant factor in the IT department’s contribution to sustainability.

“Clearly, any organization’s printing activities are an area likely to be suitable for investigation in terms of lowering environmental impact and possible reuse. Cheap printers ubiquitous in office environments, along with a combination of spiraling information volumes and the accessibility of printed output, have led to wasteful practices and needless paper use. The net effect on resources and the environment is highly detrimental, especially when combined with many organizations’ lack of formal recycling practices,” continued Blowers.

“It is important to take a holistic approach which encompasses not only equipment energy usage, but product, software and building design. For example, during the procurement process, questions need to be asked regarding the use of toxic chemicals during their manufacture and within the products, as well as ascertaining how recyclable the equipment and resources are.”

Power consumption is a very important consideration for the IT manager.

An obvious starting point for energy reduction is to ensure that all computer equipment is turned off when it is not being used, enabling power management capability, and having effective asset management where unused equipment is quickly decommissioned. In addition, all organizations should aim to dispose of old hardware responsibly by sending unwanted PC equipment to be reconditioned and recycled.

Many data centers are bursting at the seams with hundreds of underutilized servers and storage systems, many of which are consuming the same amount of electricity as a fully loaded server. The adoption of key re-engineering efforts, such as implementing an architectural approach, deploying hardware designed to use a Direct Current (DC) supply and utilizing fresh air cooling, as well as improving utilization by investing in consolidation and virtualization, can result in not only reduced energy consumption, but also significant efficiency benefits and lower overheads.

The increasing energy requirements of data storage can no longer be ignored by the IT manager. The growing amount of uncontrolled storage cannot be allowed to carry on indefinitely. The time has come to address the mounting disparity between storage management capability and the increasing number of storage devices and capacity.

Blowers concluded: “One reason why IT departments have been slow to react is because IT management often does not have energy expenditure in their budget. Power costs are usually tied to the property portfolio, so energy savings do not translate directly to budget savings for IT. In addition, we are sometimes guilty of focusing on the effects (such as improving cooling systems) rather than addressing the root causes by looking at things that actually reduce the amount of code processed in the first place (such as software design).”

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