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Green Gas has made the headlines this week - it has reached a milestone whereby it supplies 1 million UK households. According to the G...

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There is a need for the IT manager to look beyond the 'Green' marketing hype and get to grips with the environmental challenges being faced by the organisation. In the past, most businesses have paid little regard to the environmental aspects of the equipment they use, or the way resources are consumed. This attitude needs to change, and quickly.

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 organisation. This is one of the key conclusions of the Report 'Sustainable IT Provision ' Meeting the Challenge of Corporate, Social, and Environmental Responsibility', just published by Butler Group, Europe's leading IT research and advisory organisation. 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 organisations to work in a more environmentally-friendly way. Innovative organisations 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 recognised 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 organisation in meeting these social expectations', says Mark Blowers, Senior Research Analyst and co-author of the study.

'Two ways in which the IT organisation 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 organisation.'

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

There is increasing prominence being placed on the ability of IT targets to match organisational sustainability objectives. Unfortunately, there still appears to be a lack of focus by IT management on understanding the organisation's main goals in this area. Without this, it is impossible to formulate an IT strategy that will meet the organisation'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 organisation'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 spiralling 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 organisations' lack of formal recycling practices', continues 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 organisations should aim to dispose of old hardware responsibly by sending unwanted PC equipment to be reconditioned and recycled.

Many data centres are bursting at the seams with hundreds of underutilised 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 utilising fresh air cooling, as well as improving utilisation by investing in consolidation and virtualisation, 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 concludes: '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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Article Date: 11 February 2008