Reducing carbon with IT

Green IT ambitions equals improved employee productivity and cost savings.

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As we look back on 2007, two of the major trends of the year have been the rise of ‘Green Computing’ and the quest for compliance with new legislation. These two, sometimes conflicting needs, have turned 2007 into something of an ‘Annus Horribilis’ for the average IT Director, imposing additional requirements on their already severely over-stretched IT budgets and creating yet more pressure on resources.

As we read with horror Gartner’s estimate that technology accounts for 2% of all carbon emissions, placing it on a par with the aviation sector, many IT professionals have had their social consciences severely pricked and have resolved in 2008 to reduce their company’s CO2 emissions. Forrester informed us recently that 85% of IT professionals believe environmental factors to be important in planning IT operations, but only a quarter have written green criteria into their company’s purchasing processes.

However, fate and compliance has conspired against these good intentions, by forcing companies to store even more data for even greater periods of time, adding to the IT managers burden of increasing storage and enforcing stringent data privacy requirements to maintain both data integrity and privacy. These trends have encouraged organisations to concentrate their servers into data centres on the basis that it’s easier to manage and control centralised data and it also has the knock on benefit of reducing energy usage.

Mobilising the workforce

These fundamental changes to the structure of IT operations, combined with the increasing mobilisation of the workforce and use of remote workers and teleworkers has created a new dilemma for the network manager, who is hearing complaints from remote workers about the poor speed of application delivery over the wide area network (WAN). The fact is that many of these applications were never designed for this environment, resulting in delays at best, and in some cases applications not working at all, causing frustration and lost user productivity leading to frantic calls for help to the support team.

The expanding distance between workers and applications, whether they are housed in head office data centres or even hosted by third parties, has led to remote workers suffering from inferior application performance, a problem that cannot be solved simply by throwing extra bandwidth at the problem. The answer to the problem has emerged in the guise of WAN application acceleration solutions.

Speed isn’t everything

Yet speeding up all traffic isn’t necessarily the smartest move. Stripping malware out of that traffic and prioritising certain types of traffic based on the nature of the application and the sender and recipient is equally important. There is also an array of different acceleration techniques that work better for different types of protocols. Applying the wrong technique to the wrong application could nullify the benefits of acceleration entirely. Equally, since approximately 30% of network bandwidth is consumed by unauthorised applications such as web surfing, P2P, Skype, spware, it makes perfect sense to ensure that you are only accelerating what’s genuinely important to your business.

Collaborative applications reduce travel

Yet returning once again to the green theme, IT can have a positive impact on carbon consumption. The advent of collaborative applications such as video-conferencing, email, VoIP and business processes driven by IT, can reduce our need to travel to meetings as well as reduce costs. For multinational organisations the costs of reducing travel budgets can provide hard saving and evident environmental benefits.

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