Posted by: drmiw | May 8, 2009

Green IT and Cloud Computing

I have just spent a couple of days at the second annual Green IT conference and exhibition in London and the presentations made it clear that cloud computing has a key role to play in making private and public sector organisations greener.
Christopher Mines of Forrester Research speaking at Green IT 2009 in London
The conference was opened by Christopher Mines of Forrester Research. In Chris’s presentation he said: “The economy over the last twelve months has been dominating headlines – how can we as Green IT strategists sharpen our pencils and continue to make the business case in our industries that sustainability matters?”. Forrester’s research shows that venture capitalists are no longer investing in green technologies and that, in the US especially, cost savings are now more important to companies than their corporate brand image or ‘doing the right thing’ for the environment. Despite this mood shift, leading companies are still going green, he claimed, and it goes hand in hand with cutting costs.

He then went on to list four top tactics for a green IT strategy, which I’ve paraphrased below:

  1. Start at the business end with software applications and work your way down to back-end hardware, rather than the other way round;
  2. Save on storage through server virtualisation, data de-duping and tiering;
  3. Think beyond the data centre – look at the printer to person ratio, for example;
  4. Build green metrics into business plans and KPIs so salaries are linked in to green initiatives.

In a later presentation Chris went on to say that IT, as an enabler for green business processes such as teleworking and energy management, has an opportunity to provide strategy input rather than just services to businesses. And Vince Kelly, CIO of Orange Business Services, made the point that “Green IT has to deliver ROI for business”.

I heard a few great case studies for `old-school’ cloud computing technologies, and the only difficulty they reported was with the complexity of software licensing in a virtualised infrastructure:

  • VMWare was used to virtualise servers and save £40,000 on energy per year at Bracknell Forest Council – they are now looking to sell the rack space they’ve freed up at their data centre
  • Cluttons now use Citrix-based hosted desktops for their 650 users, saving one third of their 3 million pound IT budget which can now be reallocated, and they outsourced the problem so they don’t need an internal IT team anymore
  • Berkeley Group Holdings use both Citrix and VMWare for their 800 users

Another Forrester analyst, Euan Davis, gave a talk on IT service providers saying that it is only the co-location hosts who are currently including green terms in their SLAs, and they are really motivated by their own rising costs – apparently co-location costs in London rose by 118% in London in 18 months due to lack of space. He predicted that the demand for thin client terminals is going to take off this year due to efficiency and simplicity, meaning that IT can be delivered to end users with low support costs.

There was a bit of talk about the UK government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment, which is going to have a major effect on businesses, encouraging them to ‘sweat’ their hardware assets and use less data centre power; but I’ll discuss that another day.

Finally, I enjoyed William Fellows’s presentation on ’employing cloud computing to drive energy and cost savings’. He called it ‘the third way’ and predicted an increase in companies “sharing resources for the common good”. He said that Green IT and cloud computing trends are converging and their synergies are now becoming apparent, with virtualisation being the key. He said that we’re now in a time of `cloud washing’ which followed a period of `green washing’ and the market will get flooded with suppliers, but there is a huge opportunity for innovation in this space, he reckons, and I for one am counting on him being right about that!

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