Green IT Is Mainstream: Now Comes The Hard Part

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The move to greener IT is unstoppable – even in a recession. But IT departments have a tough job getting their message with the other 90 percent of the company, says Forrester’s Chris Mines.


Green IT is now completely mainstream – but anyone thinking this means they’ll have an easier life should think again, according to this week’s Green IT conference in London.

“Being part of the mainstream means the green strategy job is harder – and it is even more important in a recession.” said Chris Mines, senior vice president at Forrester Research, and one of the analysts to launch the idea of Green IT some years back. “In a recession, it will be more difficult than ever to make the case that sustainability matters.”

While everyone else debates whether they think Green IT has become more or less popular, Mines has figures. And his answer is that Green IT is in a downturn just like the rest of the world.

But the good news is that, while plans for green projects have dropped sharply in the first quarter of 2009, this comes after a period of huge growth – and green plans are still at a higher level than they were in 2003.

“Billions of dollars have flowed into this sector,” said Mines. “This is a flywheel that is still spinning and it is not going to flow down, as this money starts to flow into companies and products flow into the marketplace.

With IT making up less than a quarter of most companies’ carbon footprint (even less if they are in manufacturing), cleaning up its own act is not enough. IT departments have to be given the responsibility for making buildings and other part of the company more efficient – and thinking has to be joined up, so all department – not just IT – take responsibility for their power usage.

And it’s clear that before any technological fixes can be applied, companies need to simply make the problem visible. Instrumentation, and measurement, are the start, and then building an accounting system to get those figures where they can change company behaviour.

Once companies start to green their IT, they should start at the top of the stack not the bottom, said Mines: “Rationalise your app portfolio, so you have fewer instances of programs. Rationalisation creates hardware consolidation.”

Then hit storage: “Be aggressive about de-duping, storage virtualisation and tiering. Companies have not thought about how often they need to access this data, and how fast they need to access it.” Tape could be in for a renaissance, when companies look at the energy use of their storage, he says: it uses no power when at rest, and stores masses of rarely-used data very cheaply.

And he agrees with other commentators that there may be bigger energy wins outside the data centre, in managing clients such as PCs, notebooks and Blackberrys, and reducing the ratio of printers to staff.

Beyond the recession, IT should be able to take control of more of the company’s response to environmental concerns, greening the other 90 percent of the company, said Mines: “We’re past the point of no return. Even in a recession, green is thoroughly embedded, and will remain on the agenda no matter what.”

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