Putting green in the bank

Putting green in the bank

Green IT has been brushed off as just another fad, but for many industry players it has generated strong revenue streams and is now considered part and parcel of good practice. TREVOR CLARKE reports.

Green IT has been lambasted for marketing hype and unsubstantiated claims from all corners. It has been brushed off as just another sales pitch with scant legitimacy from a business standpoint. But isn’t there more in the environmental sustainability movement for enterprises large and small? Can we not derive a genuine and repeatable business case for turning a deeper shade of green? Do we want to?

One year ago the answer might have skewed to the negative – companies were just not convinced and maintained a deserved scepticism. However, with a much greater understanding of the magnitude of the issues and recognition of the transformational potential inherent in IT, some players are finding green IT can be a hearty and repetitive revenue stream that leads to healthy relationships. In fact, with most tenders in government and larger enterprise including environmental sustainability requirements the balance is precipitously tipping towards the positive: Green IT is a real financial story.

“We have been doing this for 12 months now and there has been a real education focus around breaking through some of the myths,” Fujitsu’s national head of sustainability consulting, Alison O’Flynn, said. “We’ve seen real acceptance in the market that this is not an extra cost, it’s actually an opportunity to look at your business and generate new sources of revenue or reduce costs.”

A recent Federal Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts contract win by Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) is a good example. Although by no means the largest deal out there, HDS was awarded the $2.2 million contract to implement storage virtualisation because of the firm’s recommendations on how to better utilise the department’s storage capacity without consuming more energy.

And for many in the industry, it is this kind of consulting play which provides the best platform from which to develop a green IT business, especially as education on environmental issues continues to be lacking.

“We really started down this track around two years ago and it has mainly been R&D until a solution was finalised,” Prima Consulting managing director, Robert Riegert, said. “We are really just going to market in a more structured way now with our solutions. We have found a lot of confusion as to what really needs to be done in terms of sustainability practices and compliance obligations with Federal Government legislation.”

Prima bases its whole operation on being environmentally sustainable through information management and won the Microsoft Sustainability Solution Award this year. Riegert claimed companies have an idea they need to do something around green IT, but don’t really understand what that is – hence a business opportunity exists.

“To be honest, our point of view is your sustainability outcomes are very closely linked to your financial outcomes and it will be even more so in future with things like carbon trading, carbon credits and perhaps carbon taxes,” he said.

“When you say green IT most people think about cutting electricity out of your datacentre, going to blade servers and server virtualisation. Those sorts of things are the first things that come to mind rather than using the technology that you have available to assist you in your green practices in the other areas of your business.”

Dimension Data chief technology officer, Gerard Florian, agreed and said that this kind of advisory and consulting operation represented a solid revenue stream. This makes it important to focus on the technologies that enable green practices.

“The business community, the IT executives are sitting there and saying ‘where do I start?’” he said. “The revenue stream when we talk about green IT is not new products. The revenue stream is virtualisation. The revenue stream is videoconferencing. They are existing products that are being sold because there is a greater requirement than ever to reduce cost and also your carbon footprint.

“I think the ‘not so sexy’ answer when we talk about revenue streams for green IT is more of some very specific pieces around collaboration, travel reduction, power efficiency; all those sorts of things.”

To be sure, the technologies on the market today, like virtualisation and power management software, are essentially already taking companies down the sustainability path.

“You can’t separate them and that is why when you see people talk about green IT being just another fad or the latest hype, to us green IT certainly isn’t that; it is good business sense,” IBM’s IT optimisation leader A/NZ, Chris Fasseau, said.

“These are things you should be doing within your business anyway. But now we do them and actually have a far greater view of how they are impacting our carbon footprint, how they are affecting our total green footprint. But there is no magic wand. It is just good IT practice.”

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