While sustainability has emerged as an important boardroom priority over the last few years, incorporating sustainable practices within organisations has been fairly challenging. In a recent IBM CEO study titled ‘Own your impact: Practical pathways to transformational sustainability’, which surveyed more than 3,000 CEOs worldwide, nearly half of the respondents rank sustainability as a top priority for their organizations— an increase of 37% from 2021. At the same time, these leaders listed factors such as the lack of data insights, unclear ROI, and technology barriers, as hurdles in reaching their sustainability goals.
ESG (Environmental, societal and governance) is a key part of every business decision today. However, to achieve transformational sustainability, it needs to become an essential part of the organizations’ business strategy.
The Role of CIOs/CTOs
As digital transformation of every business continues apace, CIOs/CTOs are expected to be agents of transformational change. They are leading the charge with digital process automation, intelligent workflows, cloud native development and deployment, hybrid cloud deployment and leveraging data and AI to enable better business decisions.
All these are compounding the traditional demands of scalable, secure, highly available infrastructure at a lower TCO. CIOs today must own the digital transformation challenges of their organisation while contributing to the sustainability and ESG agenda of the board.
Sustainable IT Infrastructure
The mantra for sustainability is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Energy consumption lies at the heart of all sustainability conversations related to IT infrastructure. Reducing the energy consumption of IT infrastructure while meeting the growing needs of digital transformation will help the organisation’s sustainability and ESG goals.
Managing data centre energy consumption is central to this. Energy consumption of the data centre is driven by the running of the equipment to support business and the cooling of the equipment to evacuate the heat generated. Therefore, reducing the number of physical devices or consolidation of hardware will have a direct effect on the energy consumption. In addition, more efficient hardware which consumes lesser power will help achieve reduced energy consumption. Similarly, choosing hardware with longer support cycles will help in using the equipment for longer periods, which means that the environmental impact of disposing hardware is minimised.
Extreme consolidation, virtualisation, and optimisation are important ways to meet the typical IT infrastructure challenges as well as sustainability targets of the organisation. Modern servers are designed to deliver scalability to support thousands of workloads in the footprint of a single system. To illustrate, the results of an internal study showed that consolidating Linux workloads on five IBM LinuxONE Emperor 4 systems, instead of running them on comparable x86 servers under similar conditions can reduce energy consumption by 75%, data centre floor space by 50% and the CO2 footprint by over 850 metric tons annually.
In fact, one of the largest housing finance companies in India is already reaping the benefits from such a solution, helping them meet the needs of mission-critical workloads while substantially reducing their carbon footprint and energy usage in line with their sustainable IT goals.
Matching the functional and non-functional specifications of one’s IT infrastructure requirements with the sustainability requirements can often be challenging. While sustainability will continue to be a priority, the ability to successfully balance sustainability needs with business needs is key to creating a transformation towards a sustainable future.
(The author is Mr. Suresh Jayanthi, zStack Leader, IBM z & LinuxONE, IBM Technology Sales, India/South Asia and the views expressed in this article are his own)