The role of IT teams in sustainable operations

Sustainability begins with being conscious of energy consumption levels

Being mindful of electricity consumption is a practice much ingrained in us – turning off the lights when not in use. Yet charging an already fully charged device somehow doesn’t occur very much to us as wasting electricity. The software itself does not consume energy, but the hardware on which it relies on certainly does. With tech energy consumption becoming increasingly invisible, how do we become conscious of the actual electricity usage levels? 

CIO World Asia finds out in a session with Arun Biswas, Managing Partner, IBM APAC Sustainability Consulting Leader. Biswas discusses sustainable IT strategies beyond hybrid cloud and accelerating towards a greener organisation beginning with the IT department. 

Role Of IT Departments In Sustainability

IT departments aid organisations’ green efforts in a two pronged approach. Firstly it addresses its own departmental green KPIs. Computing workloads and carbon emission levels from data centres are key indicators of the team’s sustainable efforts. The more intense computing workloads are, the higher the rate of electric consumption. Biswas shares that IT currently contributes 1% of the world’s carbon emissions. It is expected to grow to 5% by 2025 due to increasing Internet usage, data crunching and analysis for cybersecurity purposes. A way forward will be restructuring operations and cloud migration to reduce carbon footprint. 

Secondly, IT departments facilitate the organisation’s overall social governance and sustainability goals. To achieve these goals, tech needs to be used. Unsilo-ing data is a buzzing trend. Unsilo-ing management of IT teams is also a tactic for consideration. Teams with dispersed workflows consume more computing power, than a seamlessly operated team. Data migration to cloud is rightly an applaudable move, yet determining which workloads are most suited for management on cloud is key. 

Besides considering cloud platforms, edge computing and IoT networks are too viable options. Lastly, making conscious choices of programming language and streamlining guidelines towards choosing writing software, goes a long way towards reducing electrical consumption levels. 

Utilising Renewable Energy Sources

Using renewable energy sources is a greener choice than fossil fuel sources. An insight that enables organisations to have an edge over the rest is, matching hourly workloads to renewable energy power levels. Types of renewable energy include weather-dependent elements such as wind, sun and water. It doesn’t rain, the sun doesn’t shine, nor does the wind blow all the time. Solar power sources provide the most energy in the daytime but not when night falls. 

Having intelligent sensors capable of detecting which renewable energy source is emitting the most power at any one time, will help organisations to link the heaviest workloads to the power source with the most energy output. Given the volatility of renewable energy output levels, another tactic is to run mission-critical tasks on more reliable fossil fuel sources, and non-critical tasks on renewable energy. Open innovation encouraging breakthroughs in weather forecasting technology and connecting weather data to electric grids will aid matching of workload to energy sources. 

More IBM’s insights on IT sustainability can be found in their thought leadership report.