Green IT isn’t dead. It’s healthier than ever – under a new name

Chris Gabriel takes a sidelong look at yesterday’s fad, green IT, and finds what we all knew ten years ago - when it comes to eco-friendly IT, necessity is the mother of adoption.

In December 2007 a survey was published and presented in the UK House of Commons called “An Inefficient Truth”.  It highlighted some of the shortcomings of ICT with regards to its green credentials.

The last five years have seen the green agenda slip quietly into the background whilst more immediate challenges leapt to the fore. There was a time when products and brands could garner a whiff, justified or not, of positive corporate social responsibility (CSR) by tagging an ‘eco’ on to a service or running a green stripe down the packaging of a product. From batteries to political parties it seemed that everyone wanted to be seen to be caring about the environment.

However, while we resuscitate the global economy the planet will have to gently wheeze and wait its turn – or will it?

Over the last half-decade almost all the technologies that we have been deploying to lower TCO, increase ROI, improve productivity and efficiency, minimize downtime, and make business more aerodynamic, have quietly delivered a positive environmental pay off. In fact it’s hard to think of a technology that does not.

Let’s look at three examples;

  1. Video Collaboration – probably the most obvious as it significantly reduces the need for travel, particularly air travel. We recently identified in a post about video collaboration that the cost of one trans-Atlantic return flight would cover an HD VaaS solution for over eight years. I am not qualified to quantify the environmental impact of regular flights to the US over an eight-year period, but you probably don’t need me to…
  2. Virtualisation - Typically, server virtualisation achieves at least a 30% reduction in physical servers and drives server performance efficiency up from an average of 30% usage to over 80% usage. [Read our virtualisation overview here]. Less hardware, lower power consumption…
  3. BYOD - Allowing employees to use personal devices for work means more than relieving them of the burden of carrying two phones or juggling a personal laptop or tablet and a similar work device. The environmental cost of a product is not limited to the power it consumes – what about the impact of manufacturing and ultimately end of life disposal..?

It’s strange really, to see so many IT developments delivering genuine environmental benefits, but so little focus on these green benefits when it comes to selling them.

Maybe green IT has an image issue – maybe it’s still seen as a costly ‘nice to have’ – a CSR item that comes with an unwelcome price ticket - or maybe the same technologies simply address more immediate issues around cost, so ‘green’ has lost its edge as a sales message.

Either way, the Holy Grail for technologists now is to get more from less. Less hardware, lower operating costs, but enhanced collaboration, communication, productivity and so on.

Given those imperatives, it is almost inevitable that technology innovations will also deliver environmental benefits. The focus of device innovation – principally aimed at supporting that ‘more from less’ agenda is a case in point

  1. Ergonomics. A neater, lighter device that is easy to handle and transport will always find favour with consumers and business users
  2. Performance. More memory using less space and greater processing power using small processors. We can do more on the move than ever before
  3. Power capacity. An ergonomic masterpiece loses its attraction when a lumpy charger needs to be carted around to frequently charge the ‘mobile’ device that is now doing so much more for us. This drives the design of efficient use of power and efficient power cells. It was consumption of power, amongst other considerations, that made Apple refuse to let Flash run on its iPhones and iPads.

So, the green agenda may be taking a back seat, but developments in technology - from cloud computing to innovations in device design - are greener than ever before. Ten years ago, plenty of people said ‘green’ would never take off until the economics stacked up. Well, maybe now they do.

If you are interested what our position was back in 2007, the video below might shed some light…

Tags BYOD, Strategy, Environment, video as a service, video collaboration, virtualisation, Green IT, unified communications, Data Centre, cloud computing, Collaboration, Business Strategy, video conferencing