Green concerns forced up priority list

Based on the subject lines of the messages in my inbox, it would seem that, from my vantage point as a journalist covering the IT industry, the only topic of any importance these days is Green. From server shillers to pocket protector pedlars (it seems), every company is looking to tie their name to the verdant bandwagon.

Just recently, in fact, a colleague of mine told me of a leading anti-virus software maker that commissioned a study on data centre power efficiencies. Now, I’m sure the company’s spinmeisters can do a nice job of making a seemingly strong link between antivirus software and a cleaner environment, but to me it seems like a pretty tough sell.

Of course, marketing efforts and bloated inboxes full of green-related press releases rarely offer accurate reflections of what issues are actually top-of-mind for IT managers and directors. They are no doubt hearing the same environment-related noise that I am, and are left scratching their heads as to why it is all so loud. Other matters, such as controlling spam, enabling tighter security, or finding a place to store their increasing loads of data, to name but a few, are occupying a higher spot on their priority lists than going green.

And that’s not to say they don’t care about the environment or aren’t seeking ways to reduce the amount of power being consumed by their IT systems. Most are, but the simple fact is that driving greater savings and finding ways to do more with less, be it in the field of security, storage or any other responsibility within their purview, is usually more pressing.

Nevertheless, whether motivated by pure interest in bettering the environment or not, corporations will eventually move their greening efforts further up their priority lists. Outside factors will undoubtedly play a part in forcing them higher. While most environmental interest groups have placed their focus on pillorying the automotive, mining and other high-profile industries, energy misuse within IT will eventually enter their radar screens if serious misuse is occurring.

According to research house Gartner, business IT use accounts for two per cent of global carbon emissions — an amount equivalent to the aviation industry. With those kinds of figures floating around, it’s surprising that there hasn’t been more heat put on the IT sector to bring such numbers down. If and when more mainstream pressure is put on IT to act in a more environmentally friendly manner, companies will have little choice but to adopt cleaner servers and reduce energy consumption or face an angry court of public opinion.

We’re also starting to see outsourcing companies having to clean up their server room acts in order to attract business. A recent survey of 20,000 outsourcing users from the Brown-Wilson Group found that 43 per cent of those looking to outsource for the first time included green factors in their decision-making process.

For now, a good amount of the noise we hear around green IT can be chalked up to posturing on the part of outfits that primarily want to have their public perception bases covered. Eventually, however, the focus being put on the environmental consequences of unnecessary energy consumption levels — and the potential to realize significant cost savings — will make Green IT policies a standard element in conducting business.