Tech Chiefs Explain Motives For Green IT

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Despite the financial downturn, allocating time for so-called green IT makes sense for financial, marketing and altruistic reasons, according to leading tech chief information officers

Technology bosses from companies including virtualisation specialist Citrix, and CRM vendor RightNow have pointed out that while there are concerns that spending on environmentally friendly IT may tail-off due to tighter tech budgets, in actual fact a more sustainable approach to IT makes sense in the current economy.

In a recent email conversation with eWeek Europe UK, Citrix chief information Paul Martine claimed that the technology provider has developed several sustainable or green approaches to IT within its own company which he said have enabled it to cut costs and hopefully curb carbon emissions.

“I believe green initiatives like these are still a priority for CIO’s. They usually have a positive financial and environmental impact which is reason enough to continue,” he said.

Martine explained that green initiatives don’t have to be purely technology based. “CIOs drive many operational issues across their companies and non technology programs such as developing a Web Commuting strategy and policy are just as important,” he said.

Citrix claims allowing staff to work remotely can have benefits beyond simply cutting down the need to travel to the office. “An initiative such as this can positively impact Company space planning, and may lead to improved efficiencies, since employees who Web Commute full or part-time may not need or may be able to share an office or workstation,” said Martine.

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As would be expected with a company that markets and sells virtualisation software, Citrix claims to have deployed the technology within its own organisation and has been able to remove around 35 percent of its physical servers. “We can maintain the size of our data centre even though the company continues to grow and demands for computing continue to increase,” said Martine.

The company also claims to have reduced the costs associated with managing desktop machines using virtualisaiton. “There are tangible financial and environmental benefits to this strategy in addition to reducing the burden on IT departments who no longer have to image, manage and maintain desktop computers. One instance of the desktop operating systems is delivered from the data center to all devices,” said Martine.

Laef Olson, chief information officer for CRM vendor RightNow claims that companies approach green IT from different perspectives but then adopt other motivations after investigating the issue and due to pressure from outside the IT department. “In the past few years, companies adopted a green IT policy primarily for one of two reasons,” he said. “Technically they could weight them equally, but my belief is that one or the other was the primarily catalyst and the other comes along as additional justification.”

Some businesses are mainly motivated by “ethics” according to Olson. “While companies are primarily in business to make money, they are staffed by human beings, have unique cultures, and frequently have defined ethics about how they will do business,” he said. “One potential ethic is around minimizing their impact on the wider world, minimizing consumption of natural resources, reducing their carbon footprint, and generally leaving as much as possible for future generations to enjoy.”

Other companies are primarily motivated by financial reasons according to Oslon. “The company believed that Green IT would either save money driving by reductions in costly resources like power, etc., or increase revenue from the company brand benefit of the favorable consumer views on the company,” he said. “If this latter reason was the primary driver, then one would think that Green IT could fall out of favor if those economic benefits either didn’t materialize, or were cyclical based upon the economic climate.”

And it’s not only technology providers who argue that a “green” or “efficient” approach to IT makes sense. Sean Whetstone, head of IT services at UK recruitment specialist Reed, believes that the financial downturn is an opportunity rather than a threat to sustainable technology. “One of the most common technology urban myth’s is Green IT is more expensive than traditional energy munching IT. In reality Green IT is often more cost effective both from a capital and operating expenditure perspective as long as it designed and implemented correctly,” he said.

Whetstone said he prefers the term ‘Efficient IT’ rather than Green IT – as the term can mean different things to different people. “To the CEO & CFO it means cost efficient IT while to the environmental manager it means carbon efficient,” he said. “In light of global IT spending cuts I believe it is perfect opportunity for companies to embrace energy efficient IT to reduce the bottom line while the environmental benefit of reduced carbon emissions becomes the valued add.”


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