Green IT: don’t forget the policies

Dr Mike McCaig of Bull Information Systems looks at how an organisation’s policies can determine which Green IT initiatives will deliver the greatest energy savingsFollowing on from the July 2008 House of Commons Audit Commission report, which identified that “increased use of IT would appear to be the biggest single factor in the upward trend in emissions from civil departments,” there is a growing urgency to take Green IT initiatives to the public sector.             

There are certainly plenty of possible Green IT initiatives to choose from amongst the disparate vendor messages and flurry of recent Green IT publications. But which initiative will deliver the greatest benefit for your organisation and how can results be optimised? To answer these questions accurately, organisations should remember that their policies as well as their technology infrastructure and facilities play a significant role in determining the energy savings that will be achieved.

Taking action
The recent Cabinet Office ‘Greening Government ICT’ publication1 provided a list of 18 possible energy saving actions, including new policy standards, for organisations to consider. It’s revealing to classify these 18 actions into three areas: Technology, Facilities and Policies. Doing this shows some apparent gaps – although most recent vendor publications (from the IT, cooling or power equipment sectors) will provide additional suggested actions.
Almost all IT policies impact the power saving potential from technology related actions. For example, both IT architecture standards and security policies can have an impact on the extent to which server virtualisation in the data centre and/or employee remote working can be adopted. Generally, the more ‘immature’ the IT environment is (for example, lacking deployment of standard architectures) the greater the energy saving opportunity from virtualisation, application elimination and server decommissioning. Conversely, a sophisticated security policy might reduce the savings from virtualisation by requiring different classes of users and data to be supported from physically separate systems. Data and information lifecycle management (ILM) policies (such as data retention policy) will also affect the overall volume of data and the online and offline storage mix in an organisation.
Operational policies and practices such as backup, archiving, tiering of storage and e-mail management can be adjusted to contribute to reducing the amount of ‘waste data’ filling up available on-line storage space.
Facilities policies may affect energy consumption from heating/cooling, lighting, desktops, printing, and so on.

Establish a green it programme
To ensure that a comprehensive review of policies affecting or impacting a Green IT initiative takes place, organisations should establish Green IT as a business change programme. Such a programme can also drive the implementation of Green IT inspired policy initiatives consistently across the organisation to deliver optimum results.
Separation of facilities and IT management functions and policies was recently identified by McKinsey2 as a significant factor contributing to ineffective action by organisations to address data centre power issues. Using standard IT programme management methodology, users, stakeholders, IT and Facilities can be brought together within a single programme governance structure that will avoid the possibility of sub-optimal ‘stove piped’ or competing actions occurring.
By including a consideration of the impact of existing policies on IT energy consumption within the scope of the Green IT programme, the technology, facility and policy initiatives which will provide the greatest savings can be identified. By managing those actions as part of a structured change programme, organisations can expect to obtain significant reductions in total power consumption from IT related activities.

1 Greening Government ICT; Cabinet Office report, July 2008, UK HM Government

2 McKinsey & Co; Revolutionizing Data Centre efficiency, report to Uptime Institute Annual Symposium, April 2008For more information
If you’d like to take Bull’s ten minute self assessment survey to determine the Green IT opportunity in your organisation and obtain a free indicative report based on your answers please email your request to