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The sustainable IT myth

by Charlie Trumpess

 24th January 2014 11:19 am

Today’s architects go to great lengths to ensure their properties can be labelled ‘green’. The approach is great for the environment, but it’s also vital for commercial reasons – branding, attracting companies to office spaces, winning planning permission and so on.

New or refurbished city blocks often boast a raft of green credentials that include water-recycling systems, facades that insulate and ventilate, or heating and cooling systems that redistribute warm and cold air.

But the IT systems in these gleaming beacons of environmental efficiency all too often fail to live up to expectations. Inefficient, and often unnecessary, server rooms whirr away in air-conditioned basements. Unnecessary hardware litters rooms, draining energy. And line upon line of cabling snakes through buildings because back-up power supplies, environmental controls or security devices may be running on separate networks.

The reality, even in the greenest buildings, is that designers, architects and construction partners leave IT until the very end of the project – when there’s a mad rush to get it in, following a race to the bottom on price (and often performance).

We see this time and again. Buildings wrapped in photovoltaic glass that generate some 2.5 per cent of the electricity demand. Then we’re called in to refresh the IT and find multiple infrastructures that aren’t just draining power, they’re costing money too – from the capital cost to the ongoing operational expense.

We recently decommissioned a redundant server room that was using enough power to run six family-size cars for a year. Perhaps more importantly for the building manager, it was taking up valuable rentable space.

In a similar project we discovered an unnecessary second IP network that monitoring all energy usage. The irony was priceless. We had a classic case duplication – in cabling, hardware and power (and cost).

While everything could have been run on the primary network, it wasn’t. That’s because while IT service providers like to offer service levels and uptime guarantees, they don’t like doing so using other people’s kit or connectivity. The result is a building packed with unnecessary networks and too many service providers (at least in my view!).

On a worldwide scale, IT sustainability is significant. Servers and other IT systems will account for about three per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a McKinsey report.

At Modern Networks we’re recommending a different approach that ensures sustainable buildings have truly sustainable IT infrastructures – ticking both the environmental and cost reduction boxes. And all it requires is that we all think about the IT in the design and construction (or redevelopment) phase.

And by thinking about it, we’ll reduce the environmental impact and the financial cost. We could, for example, put everything into the cloud. No capital costs, no maintenance, no hardware or large server rooms onsite. That means less power consumption and more rentable space.

For the security-conscious buildings that require their own back up servers, hybrid solutions can be installed — with an optimized server set up and advanced cooling systems.  There are lost of options.

The point is that your IT integrator has a much better chance of delivering a solution if it’s well planned at the beginning – and then thoughtfully executed.

You can even put the monitoring sensors in – but lets not have a separate IP network for them!

by James Tizzard