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IT ‘Carbon Footprints' Waste Billions




“Information technology ‘carbon footprints’ in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific rake up billions of wasted dollars,” says Paua Interface’s director Robyn Kamira, “and medium to large companies are to blame.”

Paua Interface reckons the best companies around the world are reaping financial rewards because they have committed to reducing their carbon footprint. The potential to reduce their costs while being environmentally responsible is the most compelling incentive for Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and IT managers.

Paua Interface is helping local companies to start 'thinking and acting green'. It wants companies to contact them whether or not they use Paua’s services, so it can start measuring the cost impacts of reducing the carbon footprints here. “This will help build evidence to promote an environmentally responsible approach to IT in NZ,” says Kamira.


Every organisation has a carbon footprint. It is the measure of green house gases that are produced by burning fossil fuels. Your organisation's carbon footprint is the amount of CO2 emissions that it creates through daily activities that use energy from fossil fuels (i.e. coal, oil, and gas). These fuels release CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

During the 150 years of the industrial age, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide increased by 31 percent. As the concentration of greenhouse gases grows, heat is trapped in the atmosphere and less escapes into space. This increase in trapped heat changes the climate and alters weather patterns, which may hasten species extinction, influence the length of seasons, cause coastal flooding, and lead to more frequent and severe storms.


Running your servers and personal computers, under-utilising hardware, using old servers, not optimising server space and virtual servers all use energy that creates a carbon footprint. For example, a moderate size server has about the same annual carbon footprint as a gas-guzzling SUV getting 15 miles-to-the-gallon.

To get this into a bigger context, the largest global financial services organisations - all information intensive companies - generate about 500,000 metric tons of CO2 per year and information technology electricity consumption accounts for up to 65 percent of that total.


Reducing an organisation's carbon footprint is not just the environmentally correct thing to do, it's also a way to save money.

Paua Interface says it has been monitoring the trends worldwide and it is clear that changes in our compliance regime will most likely occur. Most major world governments are drafting policies and legislation as we speak. It is only a matter of time before our government imposes compliance and carbon tax on organisations to reach a lower carbon footprint.


Because organisations are increasing their information capacity and buying more systems, they need more power. Global energy prices are rising, and so there is a significant increase in operational budgets. So, organisations who are reducing their carbon footprint are also saving millions. For example:

* 3M reduced its carbon footprint by 37 percent and have saved more than $190 million.

* Canon's energy efficient products yielded savings of $250 million for its customers.

* IBM saved $791 million by reducing emissions 37.8 percent through energy conservation measures.

* California, the world's sixth largest economy, has already saved itself $20 billion in electricity and natural gas expenditures and by 2011 forecasts saving $57 billion more.


Many organisations have an ever-increasing reliance on IT. However, due to the sheer size, complexity and pace of change, CIOs and IT managers do not fully understand how or what their infrastructure is all doing and how it supports the business.

For example, they may not know the percentage of equipment that consumes electricity while it is either idle or under-used. So, organisations tend to buy new equipment rather than to share or redeploy what it already has. This inefficient resource planning means there is more infrastructure than is necessary to meet business objectives.


Today, we see leading organisations using data centre optimisation to reduce their power consumption and carbon emissions. For example, they reduce the number of servers, switch off unused hardware, replace slow, power-hungry servers, and move to virtual hardware.

Data centre optimisation strategies focus on the convergence of resources (data centres, servers, storage, networks, business applications, infrastructure products) along with actions (refresh, consolidate, retire or virtualise.)

* Refreshing a resource means replacing it with newer technology. It might mean replacing slow, power-hungry servers with something smaller, faster and more efficient.

* Consolidation refers to the migration from several instances of a resource into fewer. This might mean consolidating databases running on multiple servers into a single server.

* Retiring resources is getting rid of unused or unnecessary resources.

* Virtualisation techniques are creating multiple virtual servers instead of physical servers.


Typical phases of data centre optimisation include:

* Inventory - A complete IT inventory of servers, storage and applications, including identifying inter-system and application dependencies and relationships. This is used in planning, costing and risk-mitigation.

* Analyse - This phase gets a deeper understanding of how the technology underpins your business. The focus is on how technology and application assets relate to the business and maps the dependency-relationships between them.

* Design and plan - This phase finds the optimisation opportunities, designs the desired outcome, and plans the process to get there.

* Implement - This phase requires a precise picture of the state of the IT environment on a day to day basis. It monitors progress, provides a continuous updated view of the environment when incidents occur, and assists re-planning.

The end goal of any data centre optimisation project is to improve utilisation, and keep IT inventory, rack space and power requirements to the minimum necessary while maintaining appropriate Service Level Agreements. Ultimately, data centre optimisation can become a business-as-usual process that contributes to an on-going reduction in a company's carbon emissions and to significant cost savings.

At the same time, carbon emissions, power costs and requirements for space are also minimised. And as Paua Interface says, “your organisation's carbon footprint simply becomes good business.”


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