Sustainability is back on the agenda

Sustainability is back on the agenda

green-step-sustainability-blog-hero-bannerIt’s been quite a while since my last blog, I’ve been pretty busy at work and have been keeping abreast with the latest in analytics, machine learning and AI technologies. There has been a pretty big resurgence in the world of sustainability, especially in the data center sector. Initially I was a little surprised but there’s more substance to the movement compared to the pre-2009 economic crash that pretty much killed sustainability and green initiatives as a board level issue.

Before the last recession the green movement in the data center sector had gathered quite some pace. There was a lot of good work done by the BCS, Green Grid, EPA, LBNL, METI and others around metrics and tracking of how green a data center was. Indeed, it was this very movement that gave birth to the J.R.R Tolkien of metrics, PUE - one ring/metric to rule them all…get it?

Even way back then, when I was chairman of the BCS Data Center Specialist Group, raising awareness of data center energy efficiency (or lack thereof) was best done by talking to environmental lobbyists.

Greenpeace started its Click Green Report back in 2010, naming and shaming companies for how green their data centers weren’t. The Click Green program initially examined energy efficiency in the data center but has evolved to encompass a much broader scope since then.

When the global economic downturn descended upon us most of the less publicly visible corporate world (which back then included most data center companies) put green on the back burner and focused on saving money instead.

I have to say that this always seemed an unwise move to me because in most cases any green initiative worth its salt, especially in the energy efficiency arena, should have a good financial ROI and not just a green brownie points ROI’. The issue was that many didn’t have the tools, context or knowledge to assess and build strong green and financial business cases that could stand up to scrutiny or any sort of third party validation.

Thus I was very happy this year when my conversations with both customers and other industry pundits once again started to include discussions about the green, now referred to more often as sustainability, agenda. I prefer the term sustainability as it is much more encompassing of the broader agenda beyond energy efficiency, such as water consumption, embodied carbon, sustainable construction practices, etc.

Before everyone jumps back on the ‘we need more metrics’ bandwagon, let me say, no we don’t! Stop, put down the white paper draft on the new 'super all-encompassing one sustainable metric to rule them all’! Please just keep it simple and collect, track and analyse data indicating your energy efficiency, carbon emissions (this is a calculation from energy), water consumption and you’ll be well on your way to improving your data center’s sustainability efforts.

Oh and by the way, remember that simply believing raw data from sensors and instrumentation points is not an accurate representation of what’s going on (trust me, we clean and validate data for a living). If you are a service provider, not being able to allocate the fair-share of your overall carbon emissions to your customers is less than ideal.

Sustainability is a board level issue again and claiming your IT is zero carbon because it’s all in the cloud is not going to cut it as far as brand value is concerned, at least in the public’s eyes.

Zahl Limbulwala, Romonet CEO