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NZ ‘clean and green’… but not when it comes to ICT sustainability.
Mon, 13th Oct 2014
FYI, this story is more than a year old

New Zealand may pride itself on being clean and green, but as Heather Wright discovers, the latest Fujitsu New Zealand ICT Sustainability report shows when it comes to ICT sustainability we're failing to make the grade.

New Zealand has taken its eye off the ball and is falling behind in ICT sustainability, according to the recent Fujitsu New Zealand ICT Sustainability report, which shows a marked decline in focus on ICT sustainability, to record lows.

With the exception of New Zealand’s ‘heavy industry’ all sectors surveyed scored ‘well below’ global best practice.

Mike Foster, Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand chief executive officer, says the report doesn't paint a pretty picture for ICT in New Zealand.

“Our performance in ICT sustainability has gone backwards in all areas. Put nicely, we need to lift our game and take urgent action if we are to make progressive and profitable sustainable advancement across the ICT sector,” he says.

While the report highlights the environmental aspects of sustainability – with ICT now responsible for around 3% of the world's total global emissions, a figure comparable to the global aviation industry, and expected to climb to 10% by 2020 – Fujitsu says there are also big benefits to the businesses through bottom line improvements too.

Lee Stewart, Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand head of sustainability and author of the report, says there are many benefits New Zealand businesses can gain from adopting a greener ICT structure, in terms of contributing to the bottom line.

“If you start looking at your IT department through the prism of sustainability, it will highlight many areas which can be improved for both cost and environmental benefits. These include reduced costs in ICT energy use, smarter procurement decisions and better lifecycle management of ICT equipment.

“However, it's important to make sure that green IT initiatives are aligned to the organisation's sustainability goals and that they have top management buy-in.“

Stewart says IT needs to move away from being seen as a cost centre into being a contributor to energy savings and sustainability.

“The first thing to do is to identify areas where the smart use of ICT can help improve productivity and cut costs.

“The use of teleconferencing to reduce travel, and smart meters for energy monitoring, are two modest examples of ICT technology enablement. These are quick win changes that can reduce environmental load, all while enabling business to harness significant competitive benefits.”

He says another, less obvious, aspect to consider is brand reputation.

“How would it look if your old PC equipment was found in a third world country being scrapped by slave workers or children with no protective equipment?”

The report covers five key areas covered by ICT sustainability: end-user computing, equipment lifecycle, enterprise and data center, technology enablement and metrics.

It says there are clear opportunities for enhancing the use of ICT to improve efficiency and significantly reduce costs for businesses.

“New Zealand firms must now adopt the mindset that implementing sustainable ICT practices is not an expensive cost centre to business but an attractive and easily achieved investment opportunity,” Stewart says.

Big gains in end-user computing

The report highlights end-user computing, which includes printing practices and technology related consumables along with computers and devices, as one area where Kiwi businesses are floundering, but where 'there are some very easy, effective wins available – most of which also yield significant cost benefits'

“Therefore performance improvements should not be difficult to implement within organisations interested in bottom line improvements,” says Stewart.

He says end-user computing can account for more than 50% of ICT energy and emissions in some organisations, making it one of the easiest areas to implement quick wins, with power management yielding an almost immediate return on investment.

The report suggests a number of 'quick wins' for businesses looking to improve their end-user computing sustainability scores, including simple tips like powering down PCs when not in use, installing power management software for accurate metrics and using a power meter – costing around $20 – to measure actual versus claimed power consumption.

Among the other tips for quick wins:• Print to tablets to reduce paper consumption• Ensure the IT department is accountable for energy usage and spend. The report suggests IT managers have no incentive to improve EUC performance when they're not responsible for the organisations power management budget. Changing that, it says, will see significant improvements.• Consider using softphones, thin clients/virtual desktops or low watt PCs. Fujitsu dubs Virtual Desktop 'an industry game changer'. “Not only can you use your assets longer and more efficiently, we are seeing over 80% savings in desktop energy consumption. For one large client this has the potential to save around $1 million in energy costs over a three year period.”

Says Stewart: “The ideal solution would be to install power management software across all networked devices. There are many solutions to choose from... and for the most part the cost savings will offset the technology costs.

“Yet, in the event that IT departments are reluctant to implement yet another project, irrespective of the positive outcomes, the standard desktop does come with a suitable set of tools to also help increase efficiency. This basic requirement involves liaising with the procurement department to acquire the most energy efficient devices, implement a recycling programme and then configure the company-wide standard operating environment to accommodate energy efficiencies.

“These measures alone would address 50% of the potential opportunities to enhance efficiency at very little cost.

“The more advanced wave of technology solutions entails the implementation of desktop virtualisation architected to accommodate a BYOD type solution,” he adds.

Enterprise and data centerThe report says enterprise and data center sustainability – which includes ICT infrastructure, networks and software architecture as well as data center - has gone backwards during 2014. The report also looked at organisations adoption and readiness for outsourcing and cloud applications.

“The below par scores in this area are disappointing considering the impact these operations have on the environment, and the efficiency gains in enterprise management are almost always coupled with lucrative financial paybacks through reduced energy costs.”

Among the quick wins offered up for data centers are:• Install light sensors in data halls – don’t pay for lighting 24/7 when people are not there• Install rack blanking panels and side brushes – improves rack airflow and takes only a few minutes to install• Increase data hall temperature. Refer to ASHRAE standards for guidance, check equipment and, importantly, increase the temperature in small increments• Use heat reflective paint on roofs• Increase chiller flow and return temperatures. Usually set at 6/12 degrees (Celsius). these should be reviewed and can be raised to 10/15 degrees• Use adjustable floor vents to improve cooling and air flows• Repair and plug any leads in data halls. Up to 25-30% more energy is wasted through ‘leaked cooling’• Install underfloor pressure control systems• Implement cold/hot aisle containment

Measure itOne area Stewart says is of key importance, is metrics.

“If you only remember one thing from this report, it is to know your ICT energy,” he says. “Treat it like cash in your business, measure it, monitor it and control it.

“This one thing alone will drive efficiencies across other areas of not just ICT but also your whole organisation.”

The report shows organisations which have strong metrics performed better in terms of ICT sustainability overall. However, New Zealand's overall rating for metrics was dismal, with a decline of 15 points and an overall rating of F, which Fujitsu dubs 'not only embarrassing but another huge concern for New Zealand'.

“Given the high cost of energy in New Zealand there seems to be no logical reason driving this concerning complacent behaviour.

“Metrics not only prove to yield sustainability improvements, but those firms that have metrics integrated into their operations also benefit from competitive cost savings.”

Stewart says while metrics was the area scoring lowest across the survey, it is an area that can produce rapid results for little or no cost to businesses.

"Simply put, ‘what gets measured, gets managed’ and what gets managed gets results.

“Metrics has the capacity to help New Zealand firms identify opportunities and cost saving initiatives across the remaining four indices and subsequently improve all future scores.

The report says organisations should be proactively tracking energy use associated with ICT resources through metrics.

“By having systems in place to access and track real-time data about ICT energy costs and consumption, organisations can evaluate, select and prioritise more efficient and competitive ICT practices.

“Further, by focusing more effort on technology enablement and its capacity to drive wholesale improvement across a breadth of practices, IT departments can add significant value to the wider organisation.”