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The growing role of green IT in sustainability planning

Automated application management could cut global power consumption by 40%.

Corporate leaders and organisations are now taking sustainability seriously as regulators and consumers, and even partners insist that firms now make plans and act.

A recent report by IBM claims that 86% of companies today have a sustainability strategy, and more than 50% of these companies aim to make sustainability a high priority in the next three years, as sustainability efforts reduce operating costs and aid business growth.

Part of an organisation’s sustainability strategy should also include transforming and optimising IT infrastructures to become more energy efficient.

Technology’s Role in Energy Consumption

Whilst sustainability strategies are aimed at reducing energy consumption and other operating costs, however, the role of technology in high energy consumption is yet to be addressed.

Physical data centres alone, IBM reports, have globally grown by 43% in power capacity in the last three years. Today, these data centres consume 200 to 250 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity globally and account for nearly 1% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Energy Agency. This does not even include the energy used in cryptocurrency mining, recorded at 100-140 TWh in 2021.

More concerning is the projection that the data centre market is estimated to grow further by more than 30% between 2021 and 2027. Data centres and data transmission networks are not the lone technology-related culprit of high electricity use and carbon emissions. Other business functions that contribute to this challenge include:

  • Big data and analytics, security, cryptography, and internet use
  • Remote work: As more people work remotely, online activities such as streaming entertainment, and video conferencing have increased.
  • Social networking and gaming

According to the IBM Institute for Business Value, the number of internet users has increased 15-fold since the COVID pandemic.

With this in view, sustainability is no longer a sole concern for the CEO. The chief information officer (CIO) now has the latitude, expertise, and responsibility to influence informed decisions within the enterprise. In fact, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Chief Information Officers have emerged as key players sustainability programs, leading efforts to unload power-hungry computer-processing applications to the Cloud and to roll out technology aimed at energy optimisation and waste reduction.

For his part, Francis Goh, Director of IBM Z Systems and LinuxONE, believes that the “CIOs role is communicating and getting buy-in from the line of business. Sponsorship from the CEO, and the boardroom is important.”

Emerging Solutions and how are companies taking steps towards Green IT

To start, automating application resource management can be the first step. For instance, IBM’s Turbonomic Application Resource Management (ARM) platform uses intelligent automation to increase utilisation, reduce energy costs and carbon emissions, and achieve continuously efficient operations. Applications like Turbonomic can cut global power consumption by 40% – about 46 billion kWh – yearly.

Next, Data centres consume about 250TWH of electricity yearly and are growing fast; yet the average utilisation on x86 servers is at only 12-18%. Consolidating and maximising data centre utilisation into fewer units can be a concrete way to decrease carbon footprint, reduce energy consumption, and lower operating costs. IBM’s LinuxONE is a solution designed to optimise data centres by reducing energy consumption by up to 75%, space consumption by up to 50%, and improving energy efficiency in a secure, scalable and sustainable platform.

Some examples of how companies are taking steps towards Green IT :

A major Asia Pacific insurance company was able to reduce its carbon footprint and reduce data footprint by moving workloads from x86 onto LinuxONE. The organisation was able to achieve a reduction of 62% in electricity consumption and 86% in data centre floor space.   

Goh says that a leading insurance agency in China which operated a 55-unit farm of x86 servers was able to consolidate to one LinuxONE server, this helped achieve a 62% cut in energy use and an 86% reduction in data centre floor space. Goh further reported that, over the next 18 months, the insurance company “embarked on an initiative to move 30,000 x86 cores of workload to about 3000 LinuxONE cores.”[SM4] 

 Another example, Sacombank in Vietnam relies on IBM LinuxONE to fuel its uninterrupted, fast and secure digital banking services whilst helping it advance its sustainability goals through improved performance, transaction time, and savings.

Le Duc Huy, Deputy Director of the Digital Transformation Center at Sacombank, says, "It allows us to be more efficient in using IT resources. We saw improved system performance and transaction time and an improved experience for our staff and customers.”

The digital transformation journey towards sustainability requires commitment, an in-depth understanding of the challenges and opportunities, deep resources, a long-term view, and partnerships across all functions and stakeholders. IBM collaborates with clients and guides them to take the first steps on the road to zero carbon emissions and cleaner business, bringing them a unique advantage in a rapidly changing environment.

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