Network Performance

What is Sustainable Information Tech?

Technology? How Riverbed and Get Network Visibility are Pioneering the Way

What exactly is sustainable IT? What does it mean generally, and what are the practical implications for organizations that rely on massive amounts of data or large data centers to run their daily operations? We’re all relying on data centers constantly, which is why it’s important to understand why sustainable IT matters, and how to implement best practices to save energy (and money!) while making an impact.

Understanding Sustainable IT

A recent study about E-waste in the information and communication technology sectors found that the rise of standards of living and the associated expansion of technology across the globe are contributing to the massive amounts of e-waste we’re creating. More specifically, a 2019 World Economic Forum report found that electrical and electronic waste (E-waste) generation reached 53.6 million metric tons (Mt) in 2019 and is projected to expand to 120 Mt annually by 2050. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. IT sustainability is about much more than just E-waste. It also encompasses incredible amounts of energy consumption, the excessive use of water for data storage facility cooling, and essentially a massive carbon footprint in the face of overall climate change.

This alarming trajectory underscores the urgent need for a paradigm shift towards sustainable information technology (IT). Sustainable IT encompasses a holistic approach that extends far beyond mere energy efficiency. It encompasses responsible resource management, network optimization, storage practices, and device care, all aimed at mitigating the detrimental impact of electronic waste on our planet.

The ramifications of unchecked E-waste are profound, spanning environmental degradation, health hazards, and resource depletion. Think about it: each IoT device relies on a combination of components, including semiconductors, batteries, and rare earth metals, whose extraction and manufacturing processes are extracting resources out of the earth, often through environmentally hazardous methods while relying largely on human resources in sometimes ethically dubious situations.

As electronic devices become increasingly integral to modern life, it is imperative to adopt sustainable IT practices to curb the exponential growth of all of these hazardous by-products and safeguard our planet for future generations. 

This is precisely why sustainable IT has become a recent buzzword when it comes to network security and management. Whether we want to debate the causes of climate change or not, there is no doubt that many aspects of the IT industry are contributing to excessive energy consumption, and there are ways to minimize that impact through sustainable best practices.

Apart from the environmental aspects of sustainable IT, there are practical cost-benefit considerations for organizations to consider. Traditional IT infrastructure often consumes significant amounts of energy to power servers, cooling systems, and other equipment.

Inefficient data centers can result in substantial electricity bills, especially as energy prices continue to rise. It’s estimated that one data center rack can cost approximately $30K a year to operate and maintain. Depending on a business’s data needs, storage alone is expensive. Failing to optimize energy usage may further result in expenses that, ultimately, impact profitability.  

Inefficient IT procurement practices may lead to the purchase of more hardware, software, and infrastructure than necessary. Overprovisioning not only increases upfront capital expenditure but also incurs ongoing costs for maintenance, licensing, and support. Unused or underutilized resources represent wasted investments, diminishing the return on investment for IT projects.

The good news is that embracing change doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. On the contrary, with Get Network Visibility and Riverbed’s solutions, sustainable IT can be a win-win for everyone involved. 

Related Content: Riverbed Aternity Energy Efficiency Insights

Benefits of Sustainable IT

Optimizing resources and minimizing waste can help organizations significantly slash operational costs over the long haul. Leveraging energy-efficient technologies, consolidating hardware infrastructure, and implementing efficient cooling systems, can help businesses reduce their energy consumption and, consequently, their utility bills. Prolonging the lifespan of electronic devices through proper maintenance and refurbishment programs minimizes the need for frequent replacements, saving on procurement costs in the long run. Other options include switching to the cloud or utilizing off-site data centers that are specifically designed for optimal performance to help offset the need to purchase additional equipment.

Sustainable IT practices also help streamline operational processes, leading to heightened efficiency and productivity. Workflows, automated tasks, and cloud-based solutions are all ways that organizations can streamline their operations, reduce downtime, and enhance employee productivity. Similarly, not having on-premise servers reduces the need for on-site cooling systems and saves energy. These efficiency gains translate directly into cost savings, as businesses can achieve more with fewer resources and manpower.

Sustainable IT practices promote a culture of innovation and adaptability within organizations. In the context of DEX, businesses are compelled to constantly evaluate and improve their processes, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. This proactive approach not only enhances resilience to future challenges but also opens doors to new revenue streams and market opportunities.

Sustainable IT to Enhance Brand Reputation

With consumers becoming increasingly conscious of their environmental footprint, the demand for sustainable products and services is on the rise. A recent study by McKinsey and NielsenIQ found that 78 percent of US consumers say that a sustainable lifestyle is important to them. This suggests that businesses can bolster their brand reputation and cultivate deeper connections with eco-conscious consumers when they align with these values and demonstrate a commitment to sustainability through their IT practices.

Demonstrating a genuine commitment to sustainability through their IT practices allows businesses to distinguish themselves as responsible corporate stakeholders, resonating with eco-conscious consumers on a deeper level. Consumers are increasingly scrutinizing the environmental impact of the products and services they consume, and businesses that prioritize sustainability stand to gain a competitive edge by tapping into this growing market segment.

Plus, embracing sustainable IT practices not only enhances brand reputation but also opens doors to new market opportunities. As governments and regulatory bodies worldwide impose stricter environmental regulations and standards, especially as part of their procurement processes, businesses that proactively integrate sustainability into their operations are better positioned to navigate regulatory compliance and capitalize on emerging market trends. 

Leveraging Cloud Computing

The migration to cloud-based solutions isn’t just about scalability and flexibility; it’s also a crucial step towards optimizing energy efficiency. Reducing reliance on physical servers and consolidating infrastructure, are great ways for organizations to easily minimize their carbon footprint while maximizing operational efficiency. 

Through the use of cloud-based solutions, businesses can significantly reduce their reliance on physical servers, which are notorious for their energy-intensive operations. Traditional on-premises data centers consume vast amounts of electricity to power and cool servers, contributing to substantial carbon emissions and environmental impact.

In contrast, cloud computing platforms leverage shared infrastructure and advanced virtualization technologies, allowing organizations to consolidate their computing resources and operate more efficiently.

Consolidating infrastructure through cloud migration not only minimizes the environmental footprint of IT operations but also maximizes operational efficiency. Cloud service providers employ advanced data center architectures and energy-efficient cooling systems to optimize resource utilization and minimize energy consumption. This results in significant cost savings for businesses, as they no longer bear the burden of maintaining and upgrading costly on-premises infrastructure.

Implementing Sustainable IT Strategies

Assessing current practices is the first step toward implementing sustainable IT strategies. Engaging in ongoing cybersecurity and network audits, and identifying areas for improvement, can help organizations lay the groundwork for a more sustainable future. Practical strategies, such as optimizing energy usage, recycling electronic waste, and promoting responsible device usage, can yield tangible benefits both for the bottom line and the environment.

Collaboration with vendors and partners like Riverbed is essential for sourcing eco-friendly IT products and services. Developing and pursuing common sustainability goals can help businesses amplify their impact and drive meaningful change within the IT industry.