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Think green

GREEN itIn the Middle East, Green IT adoption remains in its nascent stages, and companies are only just beginning to understand and develop policies that support the environment.

Green IT and environmentally sound technology policies are new terms for many CIOs in the region. Simply put, green IT is about saving on resources. “Successful green IT entails the implementation of solutions and services which support efficiencies within an organisation,” explains James Spearman, Principle Cloud Consultant and Head of Data Centre Infrastructure, Dimension Data. The primary goal of these initiatives are to support a sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to achieving a carbon neutral footprint.

An approach to IT that leaves room for environmental responsibility has benefits beyond the future of the planet. It also means better resource utilisation, a reduction in energy expenses and a reduction in the total cost of ownership of the most vital pieces of infrastructure. In short, in addition to social and environmental benefits, green IT initiatives can mean a healthier bottom line as well.

“For example,” says Mohammed AL-Moneer, Country manager – Saudi Arabia, Infoblox, “if I can meet the organisation’s SLAs through virtualisation and in doing so reduce the number of physical racks from 50 to two, in addition to saving on space, I will be able to shrink my organisation’s energy bill substantially.” These savings can then be turned over into the business to support core business operations.

More to the point, there are a number of green IT techniques that can have huge operational cost benefits if implemented correctly. Yarob Sakhnini, Regional Director, MEMA, Brocade mentions that fabric design, storage virtualisation, file system virtualisation, data compression, data deduplication, increasing capacity utilisation and thin provisioning of storage to servers can all stand to reduce the consumption – and thus the costs – of IT operations. “A combination of some or all of these techniques can drastically reduce the amount of data being stored,” he says, “which in turn means fewer hardware resources and therefore lower energy requirements.”

Companies that resist green IT initiatives may simply be wary of change or failure during the transition. “Companies thinking about implementing a green IT project should consider that the majority of implementations are considered successful,” offers Sathya P.A., VP, Sales, Intertec Systems. “In 65 percent of all green IT projects, organisations’ initial goals for these projects are met or exceeded.” In short, most businesses meet their environmental goals and take on unforeseen operational benefits as well.

Companies in the region have been slow to take on green IT initiatives. The failure to adopt green IT initiatives may leave regional companies in the dust. “Failing to adopt green IT can damage organisations from several sides internally and externally,” explains Walid Kamal, Senior Vice President, Information Technology, du. “Internally this will have a great impact on availability and will result in a higher cost of ownership thus higher operational expenses. Externally, this could affect the reputation of the organisation which might lead to reduction in revenues and profits and cause a higher rate of employee turnover.”

Sakhnini takes his warning a step further. “Failure to adopt green IT policies,” he says, “will threaten the actual existence of the organisation. Green IT is relevant, not just a from a corporate social responsibility angle, but it also offers the firm vast operation benefits and potential for tremendous cost savings – money that can be used to re-invest in the business and in innovation.”

One of the most logical places to start with green IT is in the data centre. Traditionally power-hungry data centres can create huge carbon footprints and eat up resources. The move to virtualisation, a step that many organisations are taking already, can cut down on a data centre’s carbon footprint dramatically.

However, Spearman contends that organisations need to look beyond the data centre. “Whilst the data centre is a critical aspect of a green IT strategy, a more considered holistic approach would start with understanding the organisation’s end-users and how these end-users interact with IT.” Approaching green IT in this manner, he contends, envelopes all of the end-user components as well as the supporting infrastructure such as connectivity, data centres and security. When the end-user is included in the process – even down to the creation of environmentally sound policy – it is more likely that he or she will abide by the new protocol.

Green IT initiatives need not be complicated, nor do they need to mean completely ripping and replacing existing systems. Simply implementing policies from the IT department that reduce paper waste by relying on electronic communications and data storage can go far in making a difference in a company’s environmental legacy. For example, some large enterprises have implemented ‘no print’ days, where departments need to make an effort to print nothing for a day. Even simply replacing dated fax machines with e-fax solutions and services can do a great deal to cut down on paper waste.

Though the region has been slow to adopt green IT initiatives, local governments have done much to encourage that practice. In Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum recently launched a long-term national initiative to build a green economy in the UAE under the theme: “A green economy for sustainable development”. The initiative has been met with great support. “This shows the direction in the UAE,” says Sakhnini, “But we still have a lot of work ahead to bring awareness to the region to see the benefits of going green.”

Green IT initiatives are not just beneficial for the environment, they can go a long way to bolster a bottom line and set the stage for Earth-friendly adoptions in the future.

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