Did The Recession Kill Green IT?

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The bandwagon was just getting rolling when the economic recession kicked in. Is that the end for Green IT? Not at all, says The 451 Group’s Andy Lawrence.

London’s annual Green IT conference comes to London next week, for the first time since the financial crisis began. In the first of two interviews, we asked Andy Lawrence, research director for eco-efficient IT at analyst firm The 451 Group, if Green IT is all washed up, before it properly got started.

Green IT is still a priority

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“Many people thought that in the recession, the priority list would immediately shift away from anything that didn’t have a very clear and immediate impact on the bottom line, and luxury technologies would be postponed would fall down the list,” he said. “That is indeed the case, but Green IT hasn’t fallen off the list of priorities.”

The reasons are political and practical: “It’s mainly because of the continuing political build up on green issues and climate change. In the US with the change of government, there’s been a surge of green awareness which has kept a lot of momentum behind the Green movement in IT.”

“Also, Green IT has become very associated with saving energy,” he went on. “And it does provide a good return on investment when applied to saving energy.”

This means aspects of “Green IT” remain high on IT priority lists, including virtualisation, server consolidation, and desktop power management.

So, does that mean Green IT is just about cutting costs, then? “Suppliers will want to do anything that sells – and what sells is giving a return on investment,” said Lawrence. “They will talk about all the other issues, but ROI is what gets the cheque signed. It’s a tactic that everyone is willing to go along with.”

For example, a security software supplier selling a patch management agent told Lawrence recently that it’s software is often sold on the fact that it also handles power management. “They are selling more security software because they are able to get a good return on investment through energy savings.”

Compliance: The regulations are still too soft

Users have to comply with regulations – but there are very few on green IT, Lawrence told us: “With the exception of the UK government’s forthcoming carbon reduction commitment (CRC), everything else is voluntary”.

This may change, as there has been a plethora of publications: “It’s worth noting that we have the Code of Conduct for data centres, Energy Star for data centres, a Green Grid reference design programm, and a US Dept of Energy scheme for tracking data centres,” he said.

The US has created a LEED green building standard for data centres, and in the UK there will be an equivalent – a BREEAM. “All these standards are emerging,” he said. “None are compulsory, but I think there will be a certain amount of pressure for companies to sign up to as many as they can.”

The other exception, of course , is eWaste, where there are regulations, but The 451 Group defines eWaste as separate from Green IT proper.

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