Government Demands Green IT Metrics As Standard

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The UK Department for Work and Pensions says it won’t pay extra for information about the carbon impact and efficiency of IT products and services

Suppliers who try to charge end-users extra for supplying metrics about the carbon impact and energy usage of their equipment will get short-shrift from government departments such as the Department of Work and Pensions.

Speaking at the Green IT ’09 conference in London late last week, the director of supplier relationship and performance management for the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Frank Tudor, said that he would not tolerate being asked to pay extra for green services.

According to Tudor, IT suppliers are getting better at developing green products and services but some still think it should be an add on to existing offerings rather than integral to design.

“I am absolutely passionate that green IT is part of the core service offerings for all the IT industry,” he said. “I somewhat get obsessed when service providers turn around to me and say: ‘Thanks for spending hundreds of millions of pounds with us each year – now we want to sell you a service to tell you what the carbon footprint of that is’.”

Tudor said that government CIOs would not tolerate recent moves by some IT vendors to capitalise on the trend towards green IT by providing costly add-on tools and services for measuring carbon emissions.

“I am sorry but if I am buying a service, or a piece of technology, I expect entirely that the service providers will tell us what the carbon impact is of buying that technology or that service over that of their competitors and that will truly drive competition in this space, ” he said.

But despite attacking the tactics employed by some vendors, Tudor was on the whole positive about how the IT industry has reacted to the green IT trend. “Green IT is no longer an “if we must” consideration for IT service or hardware providers. These guys get it and are beginning to bring green IT into their core product and service offerings,” he said

Tudor was at the two day green technology show to discuss how DWP has improved its operational efficiency in recent years – moves which now satisfy some of the suggestions laid down in the UK’s Greening Government ICT report issued last July , some of which are shortly to become mandatory.

Tudor said that as well as specific moves around green IT, his department is also having to react to the results of the Operational Efficiency Programme announced in the recent budget which will see government IT reduce by 20 percent over three years.

“We have got to come up with some fairly aggressive strategies to take cost out of our business,” he said.

But although the organisation – which has an annual spend of around £139bn – had made in-roads around efficiency which have paid off in terms of sustainable IT, Tudor said that DWP doesn’t actually have any specific metrics on how it has improved things.

“We have got a feel for our green base-line but we don’t know it absolutely. We could spend an awful lot of money trying to find out what our green baseline is but to quote cabinet office minister Tom Watson – ‘He is fat, he knows he is fat, he needs to go on a diet but doesn’t need to know exactly how much he needs to lose’,” he said.

“The principle is the same for green IT. We all know we are fat, we need to lose C02 emissions so let’s get there and not get log-jammed because we are not sure exactly where we are starting from,” he added.

The lack of specific metrics might prove problematic eventually admitted Tudor but said that the organisation had decided it was better to push-on with efficiency and green IT programmes than waste time.

“That might come back to bite us at a later date when someone asks us to explain our success story holistically because we are going to star charging you for your carbon consumption but that is something that we will have to live with,” he said.

Efficiency moves under consideration include migrating 75 percent of DWP’s 140,000 desktops to thin clients over the next few years. “We recognise that a good proportion of our employees do nothing more than access LAN business applications – they don’t necessarily need MS Word Office, Powerpoint – if we can transform our applications to being web hosted we have a real opportunity to replace 75 percent of our desktops with thin clients,” said Tudor.

DWP has a fully outsourced IT model with providers such as EDS and BT providing all of its data centres and hardware right down to PCs and notebooks.

“We do not own any assets at all, we do not own any PCs, telephones – about the only thing we do own in our environment are the cables,” said Tudor.