Sustainability

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In late January, Google presented a detailed report entitled “Operating the cleanest cloud in the industry” to analysts. The private briefing detailed Google’s current status as a ‘net zero-carbon emitter’ (meaning it offsets any carbon emissions from its current operations with other programs). It also outlined its plans to be running entirely on carbon-free energy by 2030. 

Why it’s Important

All of the hyperscale Cloud vendors - Google, AWS, Microsoft, Oracle and Alibaba - have well-documented strategies to reduce their reliance on carbon-based fuel sources. Their strategies are all similar and simple: reduce energy consumption (with accompanying higher computing density) and development of renewable energy sources as part of data centre planning. Their efforts in this area are not just for environmental reasons, there are significant cost benefits in the immediate term to being free of fossil energy supply chains. All also see competitive advantages, not just against each other, but against on-premises data centres.

As these Cloud vendors announce not only net zero-carbon emission targets as being met, but zero carbon energy targets, the issue of sustainable ICT will once again start to emerge as a serial consideration for CIOs and data centre architects.  

IBRS and BIAP (via the IT Leaders Summits) have tracked CIOs interests in the topic of green IT. An IBRS study in 2008 had sustainable ICT being rated as “very important” for 25% of CIOs and “somewhat important” for 59% of CIOs. Since then, interest in sustainable computing has plummeted year-on-year. The IBRS / BIAP data for 2016 had 6% of CIOs rating sustainable ICT as a priority. By 2020, less than 0.5% of CIOs rated sustainable ICT as a priority.

With the growing call for action on climate change and the economic advantages the hyperscale Cloud vendors will have by moving to carbon-free energy sources, the pressure to provide sustainable ICT metrics will re-emerge.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO
  • Data centre leads
  • Infrastructure architects

What’s Next?

CIOs and infrastructure leads for organisations running on-premises services / data centres should expect a swing back to discussions of sustainability. However, unlike the 2000’s, the benchmarks for sustainability will be set by the hyperscale Cloud providers. By 2025, all Cloud vendors will start using their leadership in sustainable ICT as a selling point for policy-makers to mandate Cloud computing, or possibly even place unattainable goals for architects of on-premises data centres.

Rather than waiting, CIOs should review previous strategies for sustainable ICT, with the expectation that these will need to be updated and reinstated within the next 3-5 years.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. The Status of Green IT in Australian and New Zealand (2008)
  2. Building your Green IT strategy
  3. Think green IT: Think saving money
  4. Forget Green; think sustainable computing in 2009