Awareness of IT’s environment impact, as well as the enablement role it plays in improving society’s carbon footprint, are now dominant considerations for Australian IT providers and their customers. ARN recently brought together a panel of industry experts to discuss how far we’ve come in the quest for sustainable IT. This roundtable was sponsored by Symantec.
NC: What does sustainable IT mean?
Alison O’Flynn, Fujitsu (AO): As a company, what it means is making sure we are efficient. We have significant challenges as an IT company with a number of datacentres, so first of all it’s trying to be as efficient as we can be for our customers, but then it’s about using technology as an enabler in other parts of our business.
Jose Iglesias, Symantec (JI): From our perspective, the notion of sustainable or green IT, is all around keeping the same service level agreement between IT and the customers, but doing it with a much lower carbon footprint. That translates into money saved. One of the things I’ve seen all over the world is the fact that customers really like the idea of being green and reducing their carbon, but they love the idea of saving money. So having this win/win is a fantastic way to not only satisfy their ‘feel-good’ initiatives, but also put some money into their pocketbook. The way we do sustainability at Symantec – and I talk to customers as well as look internally – is we have a number of different initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint across the company. We’re in software development, so IT is one of the only three levers we can pull, alongside people and facilities. Our buildings are LEED certified, which is a US standard for energy, water and re-use, but it’s also about simple things like getting people to recycle, or putting the vendor machine where the motion sensors are so it goes to sleep at 1am.
NC: Where is green awareness at today?
Shadi Haddad, Ethan Group (SH): A lot of people are definitely thinking about it and there are a couple of approaches to reducing your carbon footprint. One is looking at processes and how you’re running your business, the other is using technology as an enabler to help reduce it. We find a lot of customers don’t know where to start, but at the same time, they all want to make a difference and see some savings.
Michael Van Zoggel, ComputerCorp (MVZ): The two go together – if you can show you are achieving both goals, that’s a big kicker. We are balancing that against general approaches to datacentres as well. In the market today, savings are the most relevant point driving it [sustainable IT] home.
JI: One thing we’re seeing, although not so much in Australia because you have been so leading edge from an IT point of view, but in older parts of the world like the US, Europe and Japan, is that cities have completely run out of power. If you go to Amsterdam and want to get more power, you are out of luck. People at Canary Wharf in London are scratching their heads because there is no power for the Olympics.
Peter Spiteri, Emerson (PS): We’re hearing that here too. It’s interesting because there are different takes on green, and there’s this altruistic corporate citizenship approach. Let’s be real: They are doing it, in a lot of cases, to reduce energy costs. But the number one issue is that, much like going on a diet, you’re doing it because your doctor told you to do it or die. In most CBDs, there’s no power and you’d have to bring in a sub-station pad in, which takes three years and costs $100,000. What do you do between now and then? People are coming to us to reduce their current functionality and reduce their weight. We are re-engineering existing scenarios for them.
MVG: The other point is we have tangibly seen real [energy] costs go up. People have spoken about it happening for a long time. In our discussions with customers, we have to tell them that if they want more, it’s going to cost them. We are being held to ransom by different utility organisations.