Virtualization’s not so cool, say New Zealanders

AUCKLAND – Virtualization vendors tout the technology’s benefits in saving energy, but only 15 per cent of New Zealand IT managers believe it will reduce company emissions without compromising IT performance.

That’s one of the results of the first New Zealand-centric study into “Green IT,” paid for by IBM and the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The online survey, which involved 2,302 business respondents, including 200 IT managers, aimed to investigate local organizations’ perceptions around environmental sustainability, and what role IT played in organizations’ energy plans.

Sixty-five percent of respondents said New Zealand must be environmentally sustainable to succeed in the global economy, says Peter Neilson, CEO of the council. However, IT managers and IT professionals were less likely to hold this view, says Neilson.

But, he adds, the survey found more females tended to believe in sustainability than males, and therefore, with the assumption that IT managers are predominantly male, the less enthusiastic approach to sustainability is not necessarily the characteristics of IT managers as much as it is the characteristics of them being male.

Two thirds of respondents said their organizations are struggling to act sustainably. Only 21 per cent believed that their organization had an environmental or sustainability development strategy, compared to 55 per cent in Australia and 41 per cent in the U.S., says Neilson.

Nearly half of government agencies have such a strategy in place, compared with 24 per cent in the IT industry, said the survey.

On the positive side, 47 per cent have started recycling programs, 38 per cent monitor energy use and 34 per cent use energy efficient lighting.

A third of respondents cited energy as the fastest growing business cost, and half of respondents said their organization have made operational changes to reduce energy costs and environmental impact in the last 12 months. Twenty-four per cent plan to make changes in the next year.

But 26 per cent of local IT managers did not think it is possible to reduce IT emission without compromising performance.

Of the companies that had a sustainability strategy, only 39 per cent included IT infrastructure as a key part of the strategy, compared to 61 per cent in Australia. The computing area is not identified as key to saving energy, money, and to reducing impact on the environment, says Neilson.

New Zealand businesses appear to lag behind the rest of the world in making IT a key part of their sustainability programs, says Andrew Fox, IBM New Zealand’s systems and technology group manager.

With a rapidly increasing storage demand and growing data centers, IT is a problem, says Fox. Globally, IT accounts for two per cent of the world’s man-made carbon dioxide emissions, which is equal to the whole aviation industry, he says.

But IT is also an area where companies can make a difference, says Fox. IBM sees IT as a missed opportunity when it is not included in organizations’ sustainability plans, he says.

There is an assumption among organizations, that if IT is changed to be more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, it will miss out on something else, says Fox. But that does not have to be the case at all, he says.

Besides the obvious reason that we all need to do something to save the planet for future generations, there are also other reasons, primarily financial and operational, for why organization should care, says Fox. Today, running infrastructure costs nearly as much as buying it in the first place, and a normal computer room wastes on average 60% of its cooling, he says.

The survey showed that the most common reason for New Zealand IT managers to reduce the emission from IT is cost savings, while 62 per cent of Australian IT managers are more likely to reduce IT emissions out of concern for the environment.

Fox, a strong believer in virtualization, cites a successful virtualization project at the University of Auckland. The university slashed server numbers from 200 to 15, and achieved a 50 per cent reduction in energy costs, as well as a 50 per cent reduction in physical storage. Server utilization improved with 60 per cent and storage utilization by 15 per cent.

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