What exactly is Green IT?
Virtualization is one main focus of Green IT because it can significantly reduce a data center’s energy consumption and carbon footprint by consolidating server workloads from multiple servers that have relatively low levels of utilization on to servers with much higher levels of utilization.
But SAP thinks that Green IT is potentially much more than virtualization (see figure on the right). Although virtualization can have a very significant impact on the energy use, cost and carbon footprint of a data center, Information Technology is much more pervasive in an organization.
McKinsey estimates that data centers will only account for 22% of the 2% overall IT Infrastructure carbon footprint expected in 2020. This makes sense since IT also covers local and wide area networks, departmental servers and printers, personal computers and more … which all also use energy and have a carbon footprint. To give an indication of scale, SAP has 45,000+ employees most of whom have at least one computer.
It also makes sense to consider the lifecycle of IT equipment by considering, for example, the sustainability of the process used to manufacture and eventually dispose of IT equipment and its impact on the environment.
From a measurement and reporting perspective, Information Technology, like other business functions, will need to comply with regulations and the energy IT consumes needs to be calculated and included in a company’s corporate sustainability report such as SAP’s 2008 Corporate Sustainability Report – note the 2009 report will be published in May.
To sum up SAP thinks that the goal of Green IT should be to make information technology more sustainable in the broadest sense. Although making data centers more sustainable, e.g. by reducing their energy consumption, should be a major focus, the rest of the IT Infrastructure should be included as well.
SAP’s Green IT Goals
Green IT also ties in to SAP’s corporate sustainability goals which are:
- Make SAP, itself, more sustainable, and
- Develop solutions and services that enable SAP customers to become more sustainable.
This second goal is where SAP expects to have greatest impact by providing solutions and services that, for example, help businesses reduce the 98% of carbon emissions that are not generated by IT Infrastructure.
SAP’s corporate sustainability goals also naturally lead to SAP’s goals for Green IT …
- Make SAP’s own IT infrastructure more sustainable, and
- Make SAP customer’s IT infrastructure more sustainable through solutions, services and partner innovation.
Through virtualization, SAP has reduced the number of servers in its SAP Demo System landscape by over 50% and their carbon footprint by 80%. In SAP’s Palo Alto offices, renewable power sources provide 30% of the energy required for IT.
On the other hand identification and creation of solutions and services required to make IT Infrastructure more sustainable is beyond the scope of any single individual technology or company. Instead, what’s needed is the insight into Green IT and sustainability that can be derived from the knowledge and experience of technology companies that are leaders in their field, and businesses that are leaders in the implementation and use of IT.
The SAP Green IT Community
This last point is the main motivation for creating the invitation-only SAP Green IT Community as it will bring together IT leaders to:
- Develop a shared understanding of the size and scope of the problem that Green IT addresses
- Define the requirements that Green IT solutions should support
- Identify (co)innovation opportunities for building solutions and services that meet Green IT requirements.
By bringing industry leaders to work together, the SAP Green IT Community should be able to develop higher quality results faster than any one business could working alone.
That said, SAP recognizes that the participants in the Green IT Community don’t have a monopoly of the good ideas for Green IT. Therefore, through this blog, SAP is encouraging members of the SAP Community Network (SCN) to contribute ideas and suggestions on Green IT through the sustainability pages on SCN and the sustainability forum in particular. There will also be more sustainability blogs in the future reporting on the progress that the Green IT Community makes.
Sustainability Measurement and Standards
I wrote a blog series earlier on sustainability that explained why optimizing the investments that could make a business more sustainable requires a business case that is based on an analysis of the impact on resources consumed.
For a data center, measuring the resources used will require answering some interesting questions. For example … How exactly should the carbon footprint of a data center and its associated equipment be calculated – what’s included and what isn’t? … How is the carbon footprint of a local-area network calculated? … and … How should carbon footprints be calculated if workloads are running in the “cloud”?
Measurements that can be used to measure existing resource usage and assess the impact of sustainability initiatives are one area that the Green IT Community will probably consider. It is also where standard methods and approaches will be important. SAP expects to work together with the Green IT Community to decide if some of the work that it does on this topic will make its way as a contribution to another organization.
SAP and Partner Solutions for Green IT
SAP anticipates that the work done by the Green IT Community will have a significant impact on future SAP Sustainability and Green IT solutions. The impact on SAP partner solutions could be similar.
It’s more likely that all these solutions will work nicely with each other since they are based on a common understanding of the problem and shared definitions of requirements. This should benefit SAP, and non-SAP, customers alike.
To sum up, Green IT is broader in scope than any individual technology such as virtualization. Multiple solutions and services are required to fully meet the requirements of implementing Green IT. The SAP Green IT Community, with an initial eleven leaders in IT working together, will accelerate development of Green IT solutions and services that will make it easier for businesses to make their IT Infrastructure more sustainable.