A Gartner perspective on Green IT

I’m at Central Hall, Westminster – home territory for a Methodist! I’m here for an event and expo on Green IT; waiting for the keynote from Simon Mingay of Gartner. There’s connectivity, so this blog will get periodically updated. Links, as always, will get added later; probably tomorrow.

“What happened to the Green in Green IT”? Both aspects: “Greening of IT” and “Greening with IT”. Mingay’s perspective: Green isn’t the primary agenda; it’s always been about cost, and about saving resources (particularly energy); but the aims coincide. ICT brings together the business information to achieve the targets.

1 – IT organisations have to engage, don’t wait for “the business” to come to you.
2 – IT must innovate, as part of the enterprise’s wider innovation agenda
3 – investment in IT systems must connect to the business’s value generating aspects, not just the “corporate and social responsibility” (CSR) agenda; although CSR is good for profit, this issue goes further.

Some organisations are slipping backwards, believing they’ve ticked the box – this ties up with a later data-driven observation from William Ehmcke of Connection Research. Energy management is a new core competency; demand and prices are both increasing and the resulting pressure on costs is unsustainable. Mingay quotes Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline: “if we don’t do something about it, we’ll be out of the game”. Tactical improvement is not enough!

Mingay highlights various aspects of the enterprise world: corporate initiatives (e.g. Unilever Sustainable Living); vendor acquisitions and partnerships; enhanced regulations (mentioned Scope 3 and see ISO 50000; see Links, below). The focus is moving beyond compliance to a “resource perspective on the organisation”, designed in, continuous (not a once-a-year report), and including the whole supply chain: which isn’t easy!

Gartner offer a Strategic Planning Assumption – one of the tenets which shape their research: “By 2015, sustainability will be an economy-wide, top-five priority for major Western European and North American CEOs.” Though as a colleague at the event commented, this doesn’t identify which current top-five issue will give way to it!

Gartner offer three frameworks to assess:

  • sustainability maturity: the more mature the performance, the higher the demand for information enablement
  • sustainability value, in five domains varying from Enabling to Contributing (e.g. new business models, new products/services), linked to the run/grow/transform model, with separate scales for private and public sectors;
  • solution domans for sustainable business systems: from compliance (low strategic priority) to growth, and from hindsight to foresight, segmented into (a) compliance, risk and governance; (b) enterprise efficiency; and (c) brand/reputation.

Building management is an obvious area where ICT can correlate and analyse the data from environmental monitoring and control, and deliver cost and eco benefit. Mingay isn’t the first to highlighted the opportunities for FM and ICT to work together; we know about this one from a Leading Edge Forum Study Tour in, I think, 2007.

And guess what, there’s a Sustainability Hype Cycle … the key point is the very large number of technologies mapped on it. Energy-efficient IT is mainstream (“mostly”), he says. But sustainable IT is still stuck in a niche, considering aspects such as toxics and e-waste and pigeon-holed with these issues. Supply chain issues, and systemic energy efficiency (middleware, network, application) are at present still stuck in “academia”, he says – what this means is that the fundamental research on how to identify, measure and model these issues is still being done.

Three stages: optimisation (current); innovation (starting – lots of “adopted innovation” which isn’t really new, and not yet seeing attitude changes especially towards compromise on performance and availability); paradigm change (rare, as yet, but the shift to Cloud has the potential to be one). Examples: data centre infrastructure management (DCIM), treating the whole data centre as a system, with PUE modelling, active power management and so on. Gartner are bringing this topic into their Data Centre and Infrastructure/Operations events. He offered some perspectives on emerging DC design trends, in a modular “build small, build often” approach. There is a list of “ten things to think of next” – starting with measurement! The two key optimisation parameters are space, and compute power per kWh, and sustainability governance is essential for progress (with IT fully engaged).

If you think you’re done on Green IT, you haven’t understood the issues!

• Sustainable Living Plan, from Unilever, aims to” develop new ways of doing business which will increase the social benefits from Unilever’s activities while at the same time reducing our environmental impacts”
• There’s information on the ISO 50000 family of standards on the ISO Helpline (and in many other places!)
• Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Value Chain Accounting and Reporting Standard, also known as Scope 3, from the World Resources Institute
• Hype Cycle for Sustainability and Green IT, 2011, Gartner, 28 Jul 2011 (available to subscribers only; if this link doesn’t work, search for document G00214739)

Related posts:
• Green IT; encountering Connection Research
• Green 3: Andy Lawrence of 451


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