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Green Business

Tim James (South Africa): Are You Focusing on Your IT Waste?

Green IT has been the buzz word around the global IT industry for a number of years now.  This was largely spawned by revelations made by industry analysts in 2007, claiming that the IT industry has the equivalent carbon footprint as the aviation industry, producing around 2% of global emissions.

These revelations urged the IT industry into action and energy efficiency, recycling and total cost of ownership has become the order of the day.  The questions we should be asking, however, is: how much do we really waste within IT and how do we identify this waste?  Green IT is moving beyond energy and emissions to a more holistic view of the IT service and how business efficiencies can be driven both internally and externally to the IT operation.

For this discussion, let us limit our focus to the IT department, as the waste elimination opportunity is staggering.

Latest estimates indicated that in the last 5 years $8 trillion has been spent on information technology around the globe.  That is more than half the annual GDP of the United States.  The reality is that this cannot all be invested efficiently as 70% of this cost is spent on maintenance of new and existing infrastructure.  How much of this spend is waste and how much can be eliminated?  Surely a tech savvy IT department in tough economic times should be trying to eliminate as much of this unnecessary spend as possible?  Well, are they?

Recent research highlights some very interesting facts.  15% of servers in an organization are doing nothing useful at all, resulting in $25 billion in waste.  50% of PCs are left on 24x7, wasting around $2.8 billion in energy costs in the US alone.  Analysis carried out on some large corporates in South Africa indicates that these figures of PCs left on overnight are in excess of 80% in most large organizations. There is also an average of about $400 of unused software on every corporate PC which is licensed because you think you need it, but it is actually never being used.

So we now know that we have all this waste, but what are we doing about it?  The short answer is nothing.  We should, however, be placing more focus on waste elimination and we can do so through the deployment of technology specifically designed to highlight and eliminate waste.  For example, enterprise class PC power management technologies have been on the market for over 10 years. These power down PCs overnight and wake them up the next morning. Simple? Yes.

In the licensing space, emerging technologies are being designed to highlight what you are wasting rather than the traditional approach of seeking out what you have deployed, and hence what licenses you need to purchase.  This is a very subtle difference in approach to license management but results in massive savings when renegotiating your enterprise license agreements.

Other major cost areas are people costs involved in software deployments and OS migrations, much of which can be eliminated through smart technology and automation.  The examples above are just scraping the barrel of where waste is prevalent. The reality is that the list goes on and opportunities for reduction exist.

In South Africa, business and IT organizations have yet to fully embrace the opportunities that green IT brings, but waste elimination in these tough times has to be a no-brainer.  Very little has been done beyond virtualization and teleconferencing solutions.  Business demands cost reductions and science demands an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.  Technology adoption can go a long way towards achieving both these goals.

The Smart 2020 Report, released in late 2008, illustrated how the adoption of ‘smart’ technologies could reduce global emissions by as much as 15% by 2020.  In South Africa, with aggressive government reduction targets and the next climate change conference imminent and on our doorstep, information technology needs to be more fully embraced by business leaders to reduce their business emissions, reduce their costs and ensure sustainability in their business operations moving forward.

By Tim James Director, sustainableIT 

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