Butler Group: Sustainability issues comprise next important consideration for IT management

There is a need for the IT manager to look beyond the "Green" marketing hype of the vendors and get to grips with the environmental challenges being faced by the organisation and the IT industry.


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 in this area.
This is one of the key conclusions of the report, Sustainable IT Proviso—Meeting the Challenge of Corporate, Social, and Environmental Responsibility , just published by Butler Group , Europe’s leading IT research and advisory organisation.
“New opportunities continue to emerge that enable organisations to work in a more environmentally friendly way," says Mark Blowers, senior analyst and coauthor of the study. "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. The IT organisation can 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.”
The IT opportunity
More prominence is being placed on the ability of IT deliverables 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 may already have come across the mantra of the Three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Butler Group has added a fourth for the IT manager—Reengineer—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 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 organisations’ lack of formal recycling practices”, continues Blowers.
Blowers says it is important to take a holistic approach that 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.
Points on power consumption
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.
Data centres are bursting at the seams with hundreds of underutilised servers and storage systems, many consuming the same amount of electricity as a fully loaded server. The adoption of key reengineering 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 reduced energy consumption, 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.
"One reason why IT departments have been slow to react is because IT management often does not have energy expenditure in their budget," explains Blower. "Power costs usually are 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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