If you listen to the words used the world over by experts and (some) politicians as they call for action on climate change, there is a phrase that is repeatedly dropped in among the carefully crafted sound bites: "We need a joined-up approach."
While it is easy to dismiss this as yet another meaningless piece of speech filler flapping habitually from a spokesperson's lips, in actual fact it reflects well on the multi-disciplinary nature of both the problems of climate change and other environmental challenges, and the necessary social and business changes required in response.
Meanwhile, the pressure to re-establish global, national and corporate economic growth is inexorable. Green is good, but green growth appeals to a broader set of constituents along with having a more natural fit to the typical strategic business agenda. The question is, how to balance the seemingly conflicting agendas of the two goals.
The need for joined-up thinking on climate change in the context of economic growth is easier to identify than to deliver. One of the problems we have is that multi-disciplinary problems and solutions are by nature fantastically complex. The sources of information relied on to provide insight are numerously threaded and comprised of a wide diversity of data types. It is one thing to say, "We must reduce the ecological footprint of humanity's activities", and another thing altogether to actually draw up a successful plan for achieving the goal, virtuous as it may be.
In the datacentre all these challenges play out in the microcosm. The hard-headed business pressure to cut costs, along with the increasingly regulated need to reduce energy usage and trim emissions is balanced against an appetite for continual service delivery improvements and expansion in proc essing capacity. Meanwhile, most of the improvements facilities and IT managers have managed to achieve in datacentre operations in the past two years have really just been the harvesting of the low-hanging fruit. Further gains will require more than server virtualisation and datacentre thermo-optimisation.
IT's role in a low carbon economy is transitioning from being one focused on tweaking the electricity usage requirements of hardware and tackling the question of the embodied carbon in the components, toward providing the means to identify and navigate the strategic green direction for the business as a whole. Being a processing platform for the applications that enable effective governance of business efforts toward sustainability may become one of the mot important contributions of IT in the context of 'green'.
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