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Issue Date: April 2007

Should the IT department take eco-responsibility?

18 April 2007

Green computing, energy efficiency, eco-responsibility, carbon neutrality, sustainable development, waste water recycling, reduced heat wastage... it is hard to have a conversation with an IT supplier these days without the conversation being steered towards environmental issues at some point.
With good reason, of course. Not only is the IT industry one of the biggest producers of carbon emissions, it also holds the key to improving the energy efficiency of many businesses by reducing their processing costs and cutting down on power and cooling waste, not to mention energy bills.
Virtualisation holds the potential to improve utilisation rates dramatically, while reducing power and space requirements, reducing energy costs and fossil-fuel emissions, while businesses can also look at recycling their waste heat and water to supply operational parts of the business, or even neighbouring businesses.
However, improving efficiency is not just about the adoption of more efficient processor technologies and data centre management policies. There are much more immediate ways in which businesses can improve their efficiency and cut processing requirements.
"The virtualisation of digital toxic waste, which is what six-month-old information really is, is not a great saving to the corporate interest," said Sol Squire, managing director of data archiving provider, Data Islandia, at the recent Data Centres Europe event in London, pointing out that processing unnecessary data is still a waste of time and money, not to mention fossil fuels, even if you are using a 20% more efficient server.
"In the end it is much more energy efficient to apply a policy that reduces the amount of data stored, and ensures that it is stored on the right media," he added. "Data that is not appropriately stored is now a liability. It is about accountability and taking responsibility. That addresses the issue as far as we are concerned about how you can get a lot greener quite quickly."
Chris Trott, leader of the sustainable buildings scheme at building design and business consulting firm, Arup Associates, also pointed to another quick way in which the business could encourage more energy-efficient computing: making the IT department directly responsible for the energy it uses.
"As soon as the IT department pays for the energy it uses it changes the cost benefit analysis completely," said Trott. "The most energy efficient server automatically becomes the most cost-effective."
While Trott's idea might have mileage if the IT department is similarly able to charge business departments for their processing requirements, many IT managers would balk at being held responsible for the processing power of the business.
Still, it is an interesting suggestion. Any takers?

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