IT may not be the first area enterprise leaders think of when they're trying to determine which of their business units could benefit most from sustainability. But in fact, there's growing evidence to suggest IT could be fertile ground for implementing sustainability initiatives.
For example, a 2022 survey by Coeus Consulting found that 80% of IT leaders believe IT has a large impact on sustainability in their organizations. Also, 90% of those surveyed consider sustainability a key objective for IT operations.
Let's take a look at some critical steps enterprises can take toward strengthening their IT sustainability—in ways that also aid their larger sustainability objectives and general goals.
1. Make data centers more environmentally efficient
On-premises enterprise data centers consume enough resources to significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. According to research compiled by Statista, traditional data centers worldwide used about 33 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2021.
Focusing on the data center is a great place to start creating sustainable information systems. To support the data and workloads that have to remain on-premises while reducing energy usage, consider the following practices:
- Colocate servers wherever possible to maximize space utilization, and get rid of any disused servers that are still drawing power.
- Ensure the environment is cool but not overly cold by using an energy-efficient HVAC system to regulate temperature.
- Automate lighting and temperature controls to minimize resource waste.
- If feasible, utilize renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
2. Optimize data usage and quality
Energy consumption isn't the only factor to think about regarding data center sustainability. The value of the data supported by network and server infrastructure must also be considered by using the concept of materiality: Simply put, it's wasteful to have nonessential data resources be supported by useful infrastructure.
IT and data teams must work together to eliminate nonessential data across business units through deduplication and strictly enforced data lifecycle policies. Teams can also reduce processing needs by avoiding data silos, minimizing data movement via in-database analytics, using data virtualization, and incorporating related practices.
Upholding data quality is just as important as optimizing usage. Poor-quality data requires more time and resources to process and repair, and this ultimately boosts energy use. Therefore, data quality best practices such as promoting accessibility, eliminating silos, and strengthening security all contribute to sustainability.
3. Leverage cloud resources
Cloud and hyperscale-cloud data centers consume more overall power than traditional on-premises centers, but use this energy with greater efficiency. As such, it's often best to migrate as many applications and workloads—and their associated data—to the cloud as possible. Reducing data center storage needs helps reduce processing requirements and power consumption.
Cloud deployments allow organizations to take advantage of low-cost object storage solutions and cloud-native apps that are significant improvements on similar legacy apps. A hybrid multi-cloud framework may be the most ideal for enterprises looking to bridge the gap between on-premises and the cloud seamlessly.
4. Overhaul legacy IT wherever possible
Legacy IT assets—servers, mainframes, outdated network infrastructure, near-obsolete operating systems, and so on—are often cumbersome and excessively power-consumptive. Replacing these resources requires an initial—potentially steep—investment, especially for initiatives to strengthen IT sustainability in retail or other particularly large enterprises.
But in the long run, the greater efficiency, speed, and quality of these resources will make up for early high costs and help modernize the enterprise. In some cases, equipment replacement eliminates certain operating expenses almost immediately. For example, consider swapping several older servers for a new unit that performs equally well but takes up less power and space.
5. Get buy-in from high-level stakeholders
It's essential for IT to solicit the support of high-level stakeholders and get them behind these sustainability efforts. The backing of director-level or C-suite staff—ideally from multiple departments—will cement IT sustainability as a priority of the organization. This helps ensure that the IT team has the funding and resources at its disposal to get things done in a timely, efficient fashion.
Not every CEO will be laser-focused on making the Dow Jones sustainability index or hitting similar benchmarks. Consider approaching the CIO, CFO, or COO with sustainable IT ideas instead. They may be more immediately receptive and can help sway their fellow executives.
6. Monitor key sustainability metrics with analytics
Leading-edge analytics methods and technologies are essential for keeping track of key performance indicators (KPIs) related to energy efficiency and overall sustainability. Moreover, by efficiently integrating data across the enterprise—including cloud and on-premises data—and using it to power actionable insights, enterprises can craft better sustainability strategies.
Teradata VantageCloud, the complete cloud analytics and data platform, offers the expanded analytics capabilities that can strengthen an IT sustainability strategy. It's a strong foundation for the highly granular data teams need to positively contribute to and monitor sustainability efforts.