I kind of reached a personal breaking point with all of this green IT discussion the other day.
I was on a panel, and this person went on and on about inefficient servers, inefficient data centers, people need to get with it, and so on. Finally, I had my turn.
Sure, I said, everything that consumes energy has its role to play, but let's look at how the intelligent use of IT technology makes an impact in reducing energy, carbon footprint, etc. -- outside the data center.
And maybe we should be promoting increased use of IT as an intelligent enhancer or replacement for other activities that perhaps aren't so beneficial to the environment.
A Couple Of Examples
I don't know if you've had the experience of using something like Cisco's TelePresence. I find myself explaining to people that it's not an improved conference call experience -- it's a direct replacement for an airplane trip.
EMC has started to invest in these rooms, as have more and more large companies with global operations. Even with initial deployments, I'd bet that hundreds of thousands of airplane rides have been avoided, and (hopefully) large amounts of associated carbon.
My point? IT should get "green credit" if they're implementing something that's a direct replacement for environmentally undesirable activities. Like riding airplanes.
In that same vein, consider telecommuting in all its forms. I don't know about you, but I can do a good day's work from home once in a while, and avoid driving my car to and from work. IT's investment in remote access, etc. -- well, I think IT should get serious "green" credit for the hundreds of millions of car trips that have been avoided already.
You Don't Have To Look Far To Find More Examples
In addition to direct replacements, many IT investments lessen the impact of necessary, but environmentally unfriendly activities.
Logistics companies like FedEx and UPS invest in all sorts of intelligent systems that optimize transport and delivery routes. Airlines use specialized applications to minimize fuel usage -- and track pilot's compliance with fuel usage guidelines. Many urban areas are investing in traffic control systems that minimize gridlock, keep traffic flowing and lessen the environmental impact.
And how much has e-commerce become a replacement for driving to the shopping mall?
Where Am I Going With All Of This?
I've seen plenty of discussion on how IT has to have a "green agenda" for a variety of reasons. And, yes, there's lots to do in more efficient use of servers, networks, storage et al. No argument from me on any of that.
But, if we're keeping a "green scorecard", doesn't it make sense to also account for IT activities that minimize the impact on the physical world?
Some rattled off a statistic to me the other day that IT energy consumption was some ridiculously small sliver of the overall global energy budget. Like low single-digit percentages small.
It made me think that maybe we're going after the wrong thing. Sure, we can (and should) spend time and effort to make IT more efficient. But -- just maybe -- we should be thinking about new IT investments that can impact things like automobile usage, power consumption, air transportation, logistics and the like.
And how many IT organizations are getting credit for their contributions in this category?
Not enough, I'd argue.