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Driving sustainability through Green IT

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By Akhtar Ali, Vice President, ISDL (India Systems Development Lab), IBM

Conversation on the environmental impact of climate change and the need for sustainable operations for modern enterprises has been building up for decades. However, the time for talk is long past. It’s time for environmental action, now.

When the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) conducted its CEO study in 2022, nearly half of the CEOs stated that increasing sustainability would be a top priority for their organization in the next two to three years. However, another IBV survey of CXOs revealed that while 86% said their organization had a sustainability strategy in place, only 35% had actually acted on it.

Today’s consumers are more willing to support sustainability efforts through responsible buying. According to IBV’s 2022 consumer research, 49% of consumers declared having paid a premium for products branded as sustainable or socially responsible in the last 12 months. Notwithstanding their responsibilities to consumers, business leaders are increasingly answerable to their stakeholders – boards of directors, investors, and ecosystem partners – on the progress made towards their sustainability targets. Simply stating intent to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions is no longer enough. They must walk the talk on being sustainable and demonstrate what they are doing specifically to get there.

Even as enterprises embark on sustainability journeys, there is a growing source of carbon emissions they cannot afford to ignore. With accelerated digitalization in nearly every sector of industry, technology is becoming a major contributor to the carbon footprint and energy consumption of enterprises.

However, while technology is the source of emissions, it also provides the necessary tools to monitor and manage energy usage, and thus optimize it. This is the premise of green IT, which is about implementing environmentally friendly tools and practices in IT operations.

Walk the talk with green infrastructure
The International Energy Agency has reported that data centers around the world together consume 200 to 250 terawatt-hours of electricity. That translates to approximately 1% of global electricity demand and about 0.3% of all global carbon emissions. Therefore, data centers must lie at the heart of any sustainability initiatives.

This means that modern IT systems must be designed from the ground up for energy efficiency in managing large enterprise workloads. These systems will then have greater workload capacity and per-core performance that is required to significantly reduce the server footprint in the data center. This improves the scope for massive power savings at the data center in response to the reduced floor footprint and cooling requirements.

Likewise, advanced runtime power saving, and management technologies can help improve energy efficiency of servers and reduce the compute footprint. This is achieved by adjusting the server’s energy consumption levels to suit workload demands. For example, when the server is powered up, unused circuits within the microprocessor go into a power-saving state. Unused compute cores are placed in very low power states allowing only the minimally required compute cores for the workload to be deployed. Frameworks and features can be built-in to help the team handling data center operations to measure and manage energy usage by choosing the right power-saving option in every situation.

Greener IT is just the beginning.
The IBV study referred to earlier found that only half of the enterprises that consider sustainability a top priority, managed to achieve their environmental sustainability targets. Those who have succeeded merit a deeper examination to understand what they’re doing differently and what they’re getting right. One important aspect of achieving sustainability goals is to focus on core infrastructure.

While the environmental impact of technology cannot be dismissed lightly, enterprises have the opportunity to seriously consider its potential as a catalyst in their sustainability roadmap.

By making green IT a pivotal part of their sustainability roadmap, they stand a better chance of driving better business outcomes while upholding their social and environmental responsibilities.

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