Green IT: Beyond the hype

Green IT: Beyond the hype

CF: Virtual desktop infrastructure just shifts the problem away from the desktop. It’s more efficient but power requirements at the back-end are growing exponentially. A rule of thumb is that software efficiency will slow down faster than hardware can increase its capacity. The bigger the applications get, the harder they are to run and they are slowing down quicker than hardware specifications are increasing.

Carl Barnard, Ethan Group (CB): It’s all about knowing your customer and how to address green IT. You can lose them very quickly if you talk about green IT straight away because they think it’s another Y2K. It’s a case of being able to explain the benefits of new technologies with the green factor as an extra feel good factor.

Adrian Toole, Somerville Group (AT): We’re being led by the vendors a lot because green IT is becoming the standard sell whether you’re talking about virtualisation, blades or storage solutions. We’ve got no choice really once you’re talking to a customer with more than 200 seats. It gets harder to talk about green IT with smaller organisations because the people running the business own the business and to them it’s a big cost. If they can save some money by buying non-green IT equipment then they’ll do it. There’s also still a lot of confusion coming from government – once they make a decision about what needs to be done, green IT will be driven down into smaller business but at the moment they are really struggling.

AP: I think that confusion around compliance and what the legislation is going to look like is causing companies to hold back on their strategies and investments.

Alan Burt, Inspire IT (AB): We are in the 100-250 seats space and a lot of our clients don’t even know what their carbon footprint is, let alone started measuring it to see what benefits they can find in lowering it. We can still talk about power and cooling, and we have clients with half-full racks in datacentres because the power allocation isn’t high enough, but in terms of green being a driving factor I would have to say we’re not seeing that at all.

Robert Georgievski, Genisys (RG): We delve into the mid-market, also play in SMB and dabble in enterprise but I would have to agree that green isn’t a major focus for most of our clients. Bottom dollar is driving a lot of this – server and storage technologies are becoming more efficient but the positive impact on the environment is a bi-product.

BC: There’s a lot in the media about an impending economic downturn. Will that be good for the uptake of green IT or not?

DB: The connection between green IT and cost savings is there so I think it becomes even more relevant. Our former [VMware] CEO, Diane Greene, used to say we were almost a recession-proof technology because when things are getting tougher people are looking to reduce costs. If the government really pushes the carbon trading scheme, and we are already seeing pushback from major corporates, it would be good for the environment and for the economy because we have a strong services sector in this country and could be industry leaders. That depends on investment levels because typically we innovate and then people have to go offshore to realise full potential.

PK: Our competitive positioning with other countries is a big problem. For example, it could be a problem if there are massive datacentres in Asia chewing through power and providing our customers with hosted solutions at a fraction of the cost we can offer because we are going green. We’re already seeing some of our smaller customers signing up with overseas competitors and you don’t know what they’ve got. If we are in our own world, that’s okay because you know what you’re up against; on the international stage, green is good as long everybody plays. If they don’t we could be disadvantaged, as we are now for software development where people are being paid less to do it.

AO: It’s going to be interesting to see how it impacts on our industry if organisations, as part of their carbon liability reduction strategies, start moving their IT offshore. Doesn’t that just shift the environmental burden somewhere else and how can we be judged on the value we add to the market? I think we’re going to see a real brand issue similar to when the banks first started shifting offshore.

TH: That’s the tipping point between corporate social responsibility and profit.

IS: On the opposite side of that coin are clients who want to deal with green companies. I had a travel agency on the phone just this morning that was looking for a green datacentre so they could go public and announce they were using it.

TH: So how do you define a green datacentre?

IS: It comes back to how you define green IT. Somebody that switches to green power and calls it green IT hasn’t really gone far enough because you need to implement energy efficiencies and educate staff.

AO: The Green Grid consortium has come out with some standards for datacentres that can be applied.

TH: But given that ISO 9000 is full of holes and has ways around it, how can somebody claim to be a green datacentre and prove it?

RG: When they start using renewable energy. How can they truly be green when they are pulling a whole bunch of power?

CF: You can compare because one datacentre might draw 1kW of power and produce three times as much computing power as another. That’s very tangible in terms of energy efficiency. We’re still a way from reusable power at the moment but there are certainly things we can do today.

IS: The market is a lot savvier these days so you can’t just make green claims on your website. The ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Competition] is coming down heavily on ‘green washing’ and General Motors is one company in court at the moment.

AO: The ACCC guidelines are threatening $1.1 million fines for false statements around green credentials. One of the biggest corporate risks is around brand reputation.

AP: The validity of what companies are going to market with, and who governs that, is one of the biggest challenges at the moment. There will be a few companies that come out with assessment standards but how do you pick which one you adhere to?

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