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TMCNet:  Necessity for sustainability [ITP.net (United Arab Emirates)]

[August 10, 2014]

Necessity for sustainability [ITP.net (United Arab Emirates)]

(ITP.net (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Earlier this year, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report claimed that global warming is an irrefutable fact, and that scientists are 95% sure that human influence has been the dominant cause since the mid-20th century. Whether some are willing to admit it or not, the fact is that 'going green' has been pushed up the corporate agenda as the realisation has set in that things really do need to change.


In the Middle East, which boasts some of the highest carbon emissions per capita anywhere in the world, it would seem that organisations are failing to take the UN's latest findings to heart — on the surface, at least. However, despite the apparently lax attitude towards greener technologies in this region, calls to find more environmentally friendly ways of doing things are growing louder and louder. And, interestingly enough, many of them are coming from the enterprise technology world.

With responsibility for global warming now lying squarely with the human race, many believe that enterprises should adopt greener solutions that can lower their carbon emissions. This could be anything from reducing power consumption within the data centre to reducing the amount of paper used by the company. Some even say that the adoption of such initiatives will become the norm as we move further into the 20th century. Hesham El Komy, regional marketing manager at Brocade, believes that, regardless of enterprises being in the Middle East or not, 'going green' is simply no longer an option.

"It has become inevitable and is part of new business landscape in the 21st century. Organisations are being directed, through legislation, public relations and economic factors, to increase the efficiency and environmental friendliness of their operations, and within this scenario enterprises are being pushed towards utilising new and advanced technologies in data centre networks," he says.

The message is beginning to hit home for both regional government bodies and for enterprises looking to increase their green credentials. Government regulations and initiatives have triggered an interest in green building, with Abu Dhabi's Masdar City and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah City clean energy project being prime examples of the region's will to become more environmentally friendly. And such initiatives, while still in their infancy, are having a trickle-down effect on the wider business environment in the Middle East.

"Enterprises in the Middle East have come a long way in recent years when it comes to embracing greener policies. This is due in large part to government regulations and initiatives which have triggered future green building," says Roger Hockaday, EMEA director of marketing at Ruckus Wireless.The current state Unfortunately, positive news of green initiatives does not change the fact that, today, enterprises on the ground are struggling to put their green plans into action. At the moment, the consensus seems to be that cost takes precedence over environmental impact, even if environmentally friendly solutions can actually save the business money in the long run. Experts say that, if a network can be built cheaply and it is 'good enough' to not cause any headaches over operational costs, it will always win out against an expensive green network.

"The recognition of the advantages of investing in these technologies is negated by the manner in which projects are contractually executed. Until there is a mechanism for green IT to be awarded a value factor, then cheapest and not most efficient will always win," explains Charlie Bass, business development manager at Cannon Technologies Middle East.

The idea that high investment costs are a hindrance to green technology adoption is echoed by Niranjan Gidwani, deputy CEO at Eros Group. He adds that the investment is not only limited to simply buying the latest networking kit or low-power equipment — a green drive must be company-wide and encompass everything from paper consumption to carbon emissions caused by commuting or business trips. It is the network manager's job to facilitate these initiatives, but, ultimately, Gidwani says that organisations need to invest a lot in the vision of a greener organisation.

"It takes great vision and a strong will and determination to build a green enterprise network. A green operation must go much beyond power consumption. Our environment fights battles on various fronts including paper consumption. These issues are required to be addressed by a green enterprise network," he says.

That said, Gidwani asserts that many organisations are now at least tweaking their networks in order to make them more environmentally friendly, while a few others dealing with legacy systems are going in for a full overhaul, choosing green tech to replace the old kit. Indeed, with the green agenda becoming more important at every level of the value chain, vendors are also keen to showcase their green credentials, meaning more environmentally friendly products are being brought to market. The good news, then, is that organisations investing in new implementations are actually going greener without directly deciding on doing it — small environmental gains can be had simply by upgrading old kit.The way forward However, in the coming years, enterprises will have to do much more to increase their green credentials, not least because government legislation will force them to.

Organisational changes will be on the horizon for many enterprises, so some have already begun evaluating where green concessions can be made. Brocade's El Komy, however, warns against jumping on the bandwagon too quickly, as he believes that many vendors will claim undeserved green credentials on their products.

"When evaluating solutions that promise 'green' benefits, it is important to look at references as well as run proof of concepts wherever possible to ensure that what is promised is actually delivered," he advises. "IT departments can go a step further than that by simply implementing energy-efficient solutions, by adopting best practices and working sustainability into wider aspects of business. This includes educating employees on green practices, running data centres on sustainable energy, eco-friendly procurement, and ensuring that the disposal of electronic equipment is conducted in an environmentally friendly manner." When it comes to rethinking the network to increase efficiency, however, Ruckus' Hockaday believes that it's important to think about how connectivity is delivered to the employee. If the business model allows it, enterprises may find that, by adopting wireless working techniques, they can save on both energy and overhead costs, killing two birds with one stone.

"Start with delivering connectivity to the employee where they want it, when they want it without over-provisioning it. With hot-desking the office can be smaller — and that means it takes less concrete to build it, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gases," he advises.

"Then recognise that the average employee equipped with a laptop and cell-phone needs nothing other than a few power outlets on their desk, or beside their chair, and a wireless network to connect to. Wi-Fi connectivity means less Ethernet cabling. It means less copper is used in networking the building, along with less chemically treated cable insulation. It also means fewer network switch ports, less electricity, and less air-conditioning. And ultimately lower running costs." Hockaday adds that, if employees were allowed to work remotely, it would reduce the company's carbon emissions because workers would not have to commute to the office. Likewise, Eros' Gidwani advises utilising video conferencing solutions to reduce on long-distance travel, cutting carbon emissions and travel costs. Such initiatives need to be driven by the executive management of the company, but they will be down to the IT department to enable.

Even within the IT department, improvements can be made, particularly within the data centre, traditionally one of the most power-hungry IT assets owned by any enterprise. Cannon's Bass says there are simple steps that can be taken without having to invest too much in new technologies.

"Most IT active equipment has the ability to adjust power usage dependent upon load but there are also other more simple factors such as using white cabinets in the data centre to reduce lighting requirements by up to 40%," he says.

And according to Brocade's El Komy, servers are a prime candidate for a green makeover. He says that more efficient AC to DC conversion, reduced heat dissipation and more efficient use of CPU cycles will all have an effect on the overall environmental friendliness of a network, particularly in a large enterprise, where thousands of servers are utilised. Naturally, virtualisation and cloud-based technologies can also help to bring down the number of physical servers needed in an organisation, again helping to reduce on power consumption.

Unfortunately, as with every other area of IT, there is no 'silver bullet' that will help to transform an enterprise's network into a green one. The change must come about gradually, through a series of smaller initiatives that contribute to the whole. "You must keep in mind that organisations cannot purchase or order green IT directly, but can implement intelligent solutions that contribute to sustainability," says El Komy.

And with the need for the world to adopt more sustainable technologies now more pressing than ever, organisations must act now to bring about the large-scale changes required.

(c) 2014 ITP Business Publishing Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

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