The integration channel should kit up for a massive green assault as the corporate community's environmental conscience starts to translate into real dollars, according to a leading analyst.
Managing director of research firm S2 Intelligence, Bruce McCabe, predicted green IT spending will outstrip Y2K threefold within the next two years. In a report, S2 stated businesses will spend $US595 billion on systems to support green accounting and monitoring in the next decade.
While going green is one of the hottest issues this year, McCabe claimed accounting procedures had been shallow so far.
"Vendors such as IBM, HP or SAP only talk about energy consumption of PCs. That's very important, but that only represents a tiny slice of it," he said. "There's a wealth of opportunity for integrators, but the possibilities are still not top of mind for most yet." One key way the industry can assist customers is by providing measurement and instrumentation systems that capture and translate information about the environmental impact of IT and office infrastructure, McCabe said.
"By 2010, all types of businesses will be investing in systems that support detailed and continuous information collection," he said. "Even schemes that follow a simple star rating will cascade into new accounting requirements for every business in the supply chain." McCabe also pointed to government regulation, such as the UK-based carbon labelling scheme being pushed across Tesco supermarkets, as triggering greener industry initiatives. This will be matched by market demands for environmental transparency.
"The other point to make is that unlike GST, Y2K or Sarbanes-Oxley, there is a payback for customers - green can be associated with ROI," McCabe said.
Several integrators are already investing in ways to deliver the green message more comprehensively. Sydney-based integrator, Oriel Technologies, recently developed a Web-based marketing campaign featuring an online carbon credits calculator. The tool allows customers to see how much energy and money can be saved by deploying virtualised over phsyical servers. Oriel virtualisation manager, Rodney Haywood, said that while virtualization was the best initiator for a green discussion, other technologies, such as thin clients, also fit the bill.
"The datacentre is only about 30 per cent of power consumption in IT - you also have to look at the desktop and things like that," Haywood said. "As a technology company we are looking at where the market is going to be heading. We want to lead that education process with customers and source opportunity from the current early adopters."
Larger enterprises are definitely taking the green lead, Haywood said, but he was hopeful the mid-market will start to engage more around green IT issues in the coming 12 months.
"We're seeing increasing awareness for greener technologies, but the customer's primary driver is still not green," he said. "They are purchasing virtualisation, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and thin clients because they're keen to get the secondary benefits of green IT.
"Things will change dramatically when IT managers have to start paying for electricity out of their own budgets. It will also get pushed along when IT departments have lower emission targets, along with other business units." Dimension Data marketing director, Gerard Florian, said the green IT argument resonated more strongly with some customers than others.
DiData recently hosted customer round tables with APC, VMware and Sun. The integrator also engages executives on identifying the green issue and how to address it within the context of an existing IT agenda. It has a Carbon Friendly infrastructure offering which addresses environment concerns in three key areas: desktop and datacenter power, waste including end-of-life equipment and recycling, and travel and transport. Within these, Florian said technologies like virtualisation and videoconferencing tied in well.
"I don't think we need more hype out there - we need a consolidated approach to educating IT management about the importance of the issue and how to align those needs with business," Florian said.
"We want green to be incorporated into the customer's new technology plans so that it becomes part of their operations."
Queensland-based integrator, Data#3, has seen environmental clauses creeping into public sector IT contracts and submitted a green policy as part of a Queensland whole-of-government tender, national marketing and alliances manager, Mark Phillips, said.
"All the vendors are putting forward detailed environmental statements around their products and we have to provide more detail on energy and consumption," he said.
But Phillips agreed going green was still not a conversation starter. "At this point in time it's a great byline or side story in terms of a company's sustainability position. People are still looking for cost reductions and customer service improvements," he said. "As the government commits to reducing carbon emissions, this issue will become more real for the corporate community."
Data#3 is promoting green issues in its quarterly newsletters to customers and has come up with an environmental whitepaper called RO Sky Green IT. Oriel's Haywood said it was also important for the channel to show their own commitment to more environmentally friendly IT. Oriel is now using thin clients and had virtualised as much as possible, he said. "The technology is available and it can be done," he said.