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Data-backed decision-making can accelerate ‘eco-friendly and sustainable’ IT developments

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With cloud computing and data becoming toasts of the town, companies have started investing heavily in cloud and more efficient data centre solutions. However, as every coin has two sides, so does technology and the soaring use of IT solutions have negative environmental impacts that organisations need to address. In an exclusive interview with Express Computer, Pallavi Arora, Vice President at Cisco Customer Experience Centers, shares her perspective on how organisations need to adopt sustainable and eco-friendly solutions while upscaling and upgrading their IT infrastructure.       

What steps can businesses take to promote sustainability in their operations and contribute to reducing their carbon footprint?

Sustainability is critical and imperative for an inclusive future, business growth, and digital acceleration. To support the goal of sustainable development and a livable planet where people can thrive, enterprises need to join hands through new energy management programs, waste reduction efforts, and water conservation initiatives.  

Digitisation and technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Cloud, and Big Data have a transformational impact. However, as IT and digital technology grow omnipresent in our lives, it is equally imperative to study and take necessary steps on their effect on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, climate change, and the environment.

For example, there is an impending need to increase the use of renewable energy and reduce the carbon footprint by supporting sustainability in building construction, operations, and employee practices.   

How is Cisco implementing Circular Design Principles to promote sustainability?

At Cisco, we are evolving to a more circular model in which we reduce the resources we consume and the waste we generate. With this approach, we prioritise materials with recycled content, design products for resource efficiency, and facilitate repair, remanufacturing, and recycling to extend product life. We have set a goal that 100 percent of new Cisco products and packaging incorporate Circular Design Principles by fiscal year 2025. 

How can businesses ride the wave of digitisation to advance their sustainability goals?

Digitisation is essential to transformation and growth, so it must partner with sustainability for a liveable planet. It is estimated that GHG emissions from the ICT sector account for 2.1 to 3.9 percent of global emissions, and more than half come from networks and data centers.  

Sourcing renewable electricity is the key element of Cisco’s strategy. As much as 89 percent of the electricity used at our facilities worldwide came from renewable sources in FY 2022. According to Cisco´s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Reporting Hub, 100 percent of our electricity usage comes from renewable sources in the United States, Canada, and several European countries. 

According to Gartner research, by 2027, 75 percent of organisations are predicted to have a data center sustainability program with cost optimisation pressures as one of the integral factors contributing to the jump from five percent in 2022. This invariably circles back to the data center with opportunities for reductions in energy consumption and costs. 

What recent sustainability trends do you find most exciting?

With the growing prominence of cloud computing, Software-Defined Data Centers (SDDC) can support cost efficiencies, operations, and sustainability goals by centralising control over hosted data and security, traditionally managed by hardware. The advantage of SDDC and sustainability in data centers is evident. However, one of the deterrents is the initial cost which the economies of scale can balance.  

Another positive and emerging development around the increasing adoption of technology for advancing sustainability goals is using AI to optimise data center operations. With AI algorithms, real-time adjustments can be made to the cooling systems, server loads, and other variables to enable the data center to operate efficiently by simply analysing the data on server usage, temperature, and other factors. This data-backed, informed decision-making can help save energy and reduce environmental impact. Furthermore, other advanced sources of informed decision-making include technological innovations that share energy usage and sustainability insights, such as energy consumption, energy costs, and GHG emissions of IT products and equipment in the data center.

How can businesses effectively improve the energy efficiency of their data centers?

With data centers as one of the significant GHG emitters, focusing on increasing their energy efficiencies is essential. Some proven steps could be studying the monthly trend for energy consumption, such as emissions output and savings, leading to data that businesses and channel partners can use to support their sustainability practices and goals. The integration of analytics can help partners and businesses estimate GHG emissions based on the energy consumption of cloud-based services in the data center. Improving cooling efficiency may also help companies monitor the surrounding temperature of data centers by monitoring additional servers, switches, and storage.  

To summarise, reducing GHG emissions is vital to sustainable development. Companies can reduce their energy consumption and resulting GHG emissions by using products designed with energy and cooling efficiency in mind. To further increase their momentum in this direction, companies can assess their environments to explore opportunities for increased efficiencies, leading to a virtuous cycle and bringing a paradigm shift.

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