IT Infrastructure Unprepared for Future

Article date: Wed, 13 Apr 2011 10:56 GMT

panel of sustainable IT gurus

The UK's existing IT infrastructure isn't prepared to meet the demands of an "always-on" and environmentally-aware society, according to a panel of sustainable IT gurus.

Despite many IT firms making claims of carbon neutrality and sustainable energy strategies, few are making significant headway into the area of sustainable IT, the experts said at a round table event organised by hosting services provider UKFast.

It means Britain's businesses will struggle to cater for a growing number of environmentally-conscious consumers who demand to know whether the products and services they buy have been produced sustainably.

Steven Glynn, partner at the Sustainable Change Cooperative said: "Unfortunately there is lots of rhetoric about sustainable IT but there is not much happening on the ground. The Government is supposed to be the greenest government ever but what happens in practice doesn't necessarily match up to the name."

The panel agreed that the growing popularity of smartphones and the mobile internet is exaggerating the problems of an inefficient IT infrastructure.

James Cole, specialist projects director at data centre design and build firm, Sudlows said: "In order to cater for 60 million hungry data users with access to the web 24/7, the power consumption of the data centre will significantly increase."

"The data centre represents a power-hungry part of what we represent in IT and in business. There is an opportunity to challenge the way people have seen the DC space used in the past, to bring it up to date, to effectively reduce the amount of power consumption by increasing efficiency and by starting to embrace renewable power in the way we operate our facilities as well."

But few businesses are recognising that opportunity and are only interested in developing IT strategies that offer a tangible return.

Cole continues: "The reality is, businesses need to see a significant return on investment for anything which is in the name of efficiency. It's a difficult sell for a business to realise carbon neutrality for the sake of carbon neutrality alone."

Dave Carter, head of Manchester Digital Development Agency, discussed the incentives on offer to firms considering improving their impact on the planet. He said: "The incentives are two-fold. In terms of Government policy, you may be able to keep some of your business rates to invest in sustainable IT strategies if you have a solid policy in place. But there are also incentives if your budget is decreasing and you need to find service efficiencies."

Carter described UKFast as an example of an innovative and pro-active company whose brave decisions on sustainability would, he hoped, encourage more digital companies to follow suit.

UKFast's managing director, Lawrence Jones discussed his "environmental epiphany" in 2009 that kickstarted his drive to make his business completely carbon neutral.

In 2010 UKFast achieved its PAS 2060 certification - making it the first certified carbon-neutral hosting company in the UK.

Through an offsetting scheme, UKFast will contribute to a number of hydropower renewable energy schemes, and UKFast Energy will provide hydro energy services to other businesses as well as supplying energy to the UKFast offices and data centres.

Jones said: "Energy creation doesn't have to be the realm of huge energy companies. There are sustainable energy schemes that are accessible to smaller business too. And doing the environmental thing isn't mutually exclusive to running a profitable business; eventually we expect our investment to pay off on the bottom line."

The round table discussions are held in association with UKFast with the aim of uniting business leaders to share advice and provide a wealth of ideas for other developing companies. Additional panellists included Jill Partington, spokesperson for Keep Britain Tidy.

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