SOURCE: IBM

IBM

March 04, 2009 11:29 ET

Mid-size Companies Continue Investing to Reduce Technology's Environmental Impact

New IBM Sponsored Study Finds Reducing Electricity Use Biggest Driver of Going Green

ARMONK, NY--(Marketwire - March 4, 2009) - A new global IBM-sponsored (NYSE: IBM) study of mid-size businesses shows that most have initiatives underway that will reduce the environmental impact of their information technology.

Almost two-thirds of all companies say they are currently, or are planning within the next 12 months, to add virtualization technology to their servers, consolidate storage systems, or retrofit their server rooms. Country leaders for each investment category include Brazil for server virtualization and server room retrofitting, and France, Canada, the U.S., and Germany for storage consolidation. About six in 10 say they plan to build brand new server rooms, led by Brazil and Japan.

Server room and user infrastructure initiatives are expected to be front and center through 2009 and beyond. In general, information technology (IT) decision-makers in this study demonstrate a greater appetite for these areas -- because the complete business case is accompanied not only by superior environmental results, but by myriad business advantages.

Controlling cost is the strongest factor driving all 11 initiatives. The reasons most often cited for undertaking environmentally friendly IT projects is decreased electricity use, followed by decreased consumables use, increased features and functionality for the business, decreased future operational expenses or investments, meeting customers' demands, and realizing credits or rebates from local utilities and governments.

Saving electricity requires the measurement of IT electrical consumption, something many companies can not do. However, the survey finds more than 50 percent of companies have implemented some form of energy measurement for their information technology infrastructure, and about one-quarter plan to do so in the year ahead.

The study, conducted by Info-Tech Research Group, 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 Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The report examines 11 key initiatives in four areas including virtualization and consolidation, energy efficiency, travel reduction, and asset disposal. See the list of all 11 key initiatives here.

"This study demonstrates the clear connection between meeting environmental goals, reducing expenses and driving change that can foster innovation and growth," said Marc Dupaquier, general manager of global midmarket sales for IBM. "IBM offers services, hardware and software that can help midsize companies be both greener and leaner."

The study finds companies typically fall into one of four Green IT personalities:

  • Green Advocates: About 25 percent of all companies fall into this persona. These companies integrate environmental considerations into all areas of their business, including IT.

  • Smart Spenders: Smart Spenders are willing to spend money up front if long-term cost reduction is achievable.

  • Green Observers: These companies do not have specific environmental goals and need management support for green initiatives.

  • Green Seekers: Green Seekers want to reduce environmental impact but are unsure of where to start and how to quantify results.

Key study findings:

Virtualization

Initiatives with a clear-cut business case and plenty of evidence for cost savings are popular. The rate of server virtualization across most regions (with an average implementation rate of 48 percent) is evidence that initiatives with a business case comprised of clear cost savings and environmental benefits will win first. For new initiatives to gain acceptance from stakeholders who may be skeptical, a case for cost containment, savings or other business benefits must be made.

Green server rooms: India & Brazil lead the pack

When it comes to greener server rooms, the trend is clear: Countries with less legacy infrastructure and higher economic growth rates lead the charge. Indeed, about 63% of Indian IT shops have completed a retrofit of existing server rooms to increase energy efficiency, or have a pilot project underway. In Brazil, it's a similar story. However, IT shops there tend to favor building new server rooms before modifying existing ones.

IT recycling gaining traction

Overall, 56 percent of the companies surveyed have either completed or are implementing outdated hardware recycling programs. Approximately 23 percent of IT departments report plans to adopt IT equipment recycling and energy measurement practices within the next 12 months.

Environmental goals are most often met or exceeded

Companies thinking about implementing a Green IT project should consider that the majority of implementations are considered successful. In 65% of all implementations, organizations' initial goals for these projects are met or exceeded. In other words, businesses usually accomplish what they set out to do, and realized additional benefits they weren't expecting.

Travel reduction: It's happening now -- but not in Europe

Interestingly, countries with some of the highest fuel prices in the world have not, up to this point, turned to remote conferencing and telecommuting initiatives to reduce both cost and environmental impact. While 50-60% of North American, British, Indian and Brazilian 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 receiving the most attention from geographically "big" countries over the next 12 months. From Brazil to Canada, more than 30% of businesses will aggressively pursue remote conferencing and telecommuting strategies.

BRIC countries

Developing nations have a clean slate -- and they're taking advantage of it. In this study, India and Brazil are a good proxy for the array of 'BRIC' countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China. With the environmental footprint of the BRIC nations rapidly expanding, individual businesses and IT departments are attempting to develop efficient, low-impact IT infrastructure in their first time to the plate.

Business versus environmental benefits

The concept of going "Green" has generated a lot of hype among companies interested in realizing business, environmental and corporate reputation benefits. Green IT initiatives, in particular, present enterprises with the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint while also reducing costs. Interestingly, when respondents were asked to weigh the importance placed on business benefits against environmental benefits, the split was approximately 60:40 in favor of business motivators -- both before and after the implementation phase. The slight slant towards business motivators substantiates the common sentiment among companies that Green IT initiatives must yield financial returns in order to get the green light.

Download the study white paper here.

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