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Small is Beautiful...and Green Too

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CIOL Bureau
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INDIA: Following the initial hype and unending debates on the tangible and intangible effects of going green, businesses have now finally woken up to the benefits of green IT. Irrespective of size and nature of business, companies are now willingly embracing green IT as a primary way to save costs and secondly to give essence to their CSR activities. Back in January 2009, Dataquest came out with its first green audit and found some very interesting results.

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The research result was fairly encouraging with close to 69 per cent of the respondents admitting that they were aware of green IT. This was a heartening find, as it proves that there is a high amount of interest on the issue. Not surprisingly, the awareness levels were higher in MNCs with some 77 per cent admitting to know about the issue. But it is interesting to note the high awareness levels among PSUs, some 76 per cent of them said that they were aware of green IT. Another interesting thing to note is that the awareness level was the highest among companies with annual revenues of Rs. 50-100 crore, around 79 per cent. Big companies, with annual revenues of over Rs. 500 crore, came next.

While the research highlighted the green IT activities of PSUs, MNCs and large enterprises, small and medium businesses (SMBs) were not studied in detail simply due to the fragmented nature of this segment. However, a recent survey by IBM and InfoTech Research Group reveals that Indian SMBs are in fact leading investments in green IT. This report completely debunks the widely accepted theory so far that only large enterprises are capable of or are investing in green IT initiatives.

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SMBs Lead

The IBM study reveals that even in a very difficult economic environment, Indian SMBs are eager to actively invest in initiatives that reduce the environmental impact of their IT. It also highlights that controlling costs is the most popular factor driving implementation across initiatives, and green initiatives have a clear impact on the bottom lines of organizations. The study is based on a survey of more than 1,000 information technology executives at companies with between 100 and 1,000 employees across industries, and in a dozen countries including India, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

The findings show that more than 55 per cent of Indian companies are going to, or have already commissioned, third-party environmental audits, purchased emission credits, or have made improvements in their supply chain efficiency to reduce energy consumption. Businesses around the world have discovered that going green isn't just good for the planet; its good for their bottom line as well.

In today's economic climate, the primary driver for the majority of IT initiatives is the ability to provide a solid return to the business. SMBs too have now realized that green initiatives help decrease electricity consumption and consumables usage, while increasing features and functionality for the business, says Ramesh Narasimhan, director, general business, IBM India/South Asia.

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IT Personalities

The study found that companies typically fall into one of the four IT personalities - green advocates, smart spenders, green observers, and green seekers. Green advocates, that make up about 25 per cent of the companies surveyed, are those who integrate environmental considerations into all areas of their business. Smart spenders make up 38 per cent of the survey group, and are defined as SMBs willing to make upfront investments to achieve a long-term cost reduction. Green observers, who make up 30 per cent of the survey group, do not have specific environmental goals and need management support for initiatives to improve energy efficiency. Finally, green seekers at 7 per cent, are interested in adopting energy efficient technology but are unsure of where to start and how to quantify results.

 

First Step

The first step usually taken by a majority of SMBs to go green is to start with a retrofit of existing server rooms to increase energy efficiency. Almost 63 per cent of Indian IT enterprises have either completed this task, or have a pilot project underway. Half the companies who participated in this study were either piloting or implementing at least one of the eleven green IT initiatives from four major groups (virtualization and consolidation, energy efficiency, travel reduction, and asset disposal).

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"SMBs have now realized that green initiatives help decrease electricity consumption and consumables usage," Ramesh Narasimhan, director, general business, IBM India/South Asia.

 

Energy Measurement

Saving power requires the measurement of IT electrical consumption, something many companies cannot do. However, the survey finds that more than 50 per cent of companies have implemented some form of energy measurement for their information technology infrastructure, and about a quarter plan to do so in the year ahead.

"IT energy measurement is a particularly important initiative since its data quantifies the true cost of energy used by IT, and allows management to determine which parts of IT infrastructure should be optimized next. For example, one of the respondents who recently adopted energy metering for the server room, articulated that they can now install meters to track usage and make efficiency gains not only in today's time but also in the long run," says Narasimhan.

Hot Technologies

Storage consolidation, server and desktop virtualization are key technologies adopted by SMBs to reduce cost and consumption. The rate of server virtualization across most regions (with an average implementation rate of 48 per cent) is evidence that virtualization is undisputedly the most popular of all green IT efforts. Almost two-thirds of all companies globally are currently, or are planning within the next 12 months, to add virtualization technology to their servers.

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Apart from virtualization, SMBs are looking at video conferencing and unified communications as effective ways to bring down commuting costs. The survey found that while 50-60 per cent of Indian, Brazilian, North American and British businesses are up and running with telecommuting and virtual conferencing capabilities, Germany, France and to a lesser extent, the Nordic countries have been slower to adopt these technologies. Initiatives intended to reduce travel are clearly going to receive the highest attention from countries over the next twelve months.

e-Waste Recycling

IT equipment recycling is also an area that is being seriously considered by SMBs as a part of their green efforts. Overall, 56 per cent of the companies surveyed have either completed or are implementing outdated hardware recycling programs. This is very encouraging, especially as the Dataquest survey discovered that PSUs and large enterprises are doing little or no work on e-waste management. On the other hand, approximately 23 pe cent of IT departments of SMBs reported plans to adopt IT equipment recycling and energy measurement practices within the next 12 months.

The Indian market boasts of more than 35 million SMBs and is now competing globally. The fact that they are consciously looking at green IT to improve internal efficiencies, save costs and join the technology elite group, is encouraging.