Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cost concerns turn IT green

Original Article

Information technology is quickly becoming a new front in the war on waste, with companies looking to turn their technology green in the face of rising energy costs.

Activists have pushed environmental sustainability as a core part of the social responsibility of businesses for more than a decade. But as resource prices skyrocket and cost-cutting rules the day, it is financial, not social considerations that are driving the uptake of energy-efficient technology.

Even in the GCC, known internationally for its abundance of energy, rising costs and breakneck growth are bringing efficiency to the front of the corporate agenda. And for services businesses, that means squeezing more out of their power-hungry information systems.

“Space costs are going up. Rental costs are rising. Power costs are going up, and sometimes you don’t even get as much power as you need,” said Chandan Mehta, a product marketing manager at Fujitsu Siemens, a technology company. “Making IT more energy-efficient is something companies here are very interested in.”

For a medium-sized enterprise in the service sector, personal computers, laptops and monitors represent one of the major sources of energy use in the business. Businesses that operate data centres, complete with large-scale storage and cooling systems, are hit twice as hard.

Reducing the energy use of information systems can mean anything from simple operational policies that ensure machines are switched off or powered down when not in use, all the way to upgrading servers and data centres to work in more efficient ways.

Organisations like the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, the Dubai-based property developer Tatweer and the Dubai police force have already implemented energy-efficient IT systems in their offices.

At the Green IT forum – an environmental technology showcase event yesterday at the Rotana Beach Hotel organised by Fujitsu Siemens and the systems integrator Itqan – representatives of more than 25 local companies discussed their interest in cutting energy costs through smarter systems.

“Very few companies are doing it to be more environmentally friendly,” said Mr Mehta. “They are doing it mainly because they are being pushed into the corner. They are running out of space and they are not getting powerful new systems – but their company is hiring hundreds of new people every quarter. So they still need to deploy new services; they have to do more, with less or the same. So they are being pushed to look for leaner technologies.”

The IT research group Gartner has identified green systems as one of 10 strategic technologies that chief technology officers cannot afford to ignore in 2008. “IT is at once a contributor to environmental problems and part of many solutions,” said Andrea Di Maio, a vice president at the US company.

Google, which operates one of the world’s most complicated networks of data centres and server farms, is becoming increasingly focused on cutting its energy costs through a combination of more efficient computing technology and major investments in alternative energy. On Tuesday, the company announced that its philanthropic wing,, was investing US$10 million (Dh36.7m) in a new, experimental form of geothermal energy, which creates power through the naturally occurring heat found in the earth’s crust.

The company has already activated one of the largest solar power installations in the world on the rooftops of its headquarters in Mountainview, California. Last year, in collaboration with the microchip-maker Intel, it launched the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, which aims to “slow climate change, one computer at a time”.

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