Turning Service Management Green
Editor's note: see also Ken Turbitt's post Can Business Service Management be used for Greener IT? >>
Green IT is a widely talked about subject at the moment. Businesses are undertaking numerous initiatives to address the challenge of increasing power consumption, growing carbon footprint not to mention increasing costs.
An initiative that most businesses are not undertaking is embedding sustainability into processes and workflow. Businesses can use their existing service management framework to improve the sustainability of IT and the goods and services that they provide.
This article will explore what we mean by Green IT, the current impact that IT is having on the environment, why it is so high on the CEO agenda, the initiatives that most businesses are currently driving, and how service management can help address the challenge
What is Green IT?
There are many definitions to be found on “green IT” or “green computing”. Just do a Google search and see what you find. The majority of the definitions will talk about physical devices and their lifecycle such as the following that I pulled off the Internet.
Firstly, I don’t believe that there is such a thing as “Green IT”. I believe that the phrase itself is an oxymoron! By the nature of IT, it cannot be “green”. What IT can do is improve the way in which both Information Technology and the Business operates by directly reducing the carbon footprint of their operations. It can become “greener” but it will never be “green”.
What a “greener IT” should be driving is not only a reduction in its own carbon footprint but providing products and services to the rest of the organisation to enable it to reduce its carbon footprint. Most IT sustainability initiatives are internally focused and they need to become externally focussed as well. They also tend to be operational initiatives and need to be strategic and tactical as well. This works hand-in-glove with Business Service Management (BSM) initiatives, but is often ignored or thought irrelevant.
IT is also well placed through its service management framework to drive a change in the behaviours of not only its own staff but also its customers and suppliers.
Therefore, if we have to use the term “Green IT” is should be an overarching strategic, tactical and operational programme of activities that not only address the carbon footprint of IT but also that of the business, its customers and it suppliers. IT should be driving an organisational change in behaviour towards sustainability in order to reach a state of “unconscious competency” which I will talk about later. Before that, let’s explore what the actual impact IT is having on the environmental both now and into the future.
Back in 2007, Gartner released the statistic that IT was responsible for 2% of global CO2 emissions. This statistic has been widely used ever since. The Climate Group in the report “SMART2020: Enabling the Low Carbon Economy in the Information Age” (2008) supported this figure but also predicted that despite the efficient technology developments that affect the power consumption of products and services, the figure looks set to grow at 6% per year until 2020.
Based on global carbon emissions of 2% per year, this puts IT on a par with the aviation industry. Yes, really! We all focus on the airlines, because they are big and obvious, we can even pay an off-set charge to “feel better”, but we need to start and focus on things we can more directly impact on our own doorstep, the IT we use.
The carbon footprint of PCs and monitors is expected to triple by 2020 – a growth rate of 5% per annum.
The global data centre carbon footprint is expected to triple by 2020 – a growth of 7% per annum.
If growth continues in line with demand, the world will be using 122 million servers in 2020 up from 18 million today.
The data centre composition will change in coming years with an increase in volume servers and virtualisation. However, despite being able to keep a somewhat loose-lid on power consumption through new generation technologies, the growth and associated heating and cooling requirements will continue to increase the impact of IT on the environment. Just look at India and China and you can see that the power utilisation that both domestic and business IT uses is bringing the infrastructure to breaking point, and they have only just started.
So why is sustainability and a concerted approach to climate-change top of the CEO agenda?
In the Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) 13th Annual Global CEO survey they found the following:
The survey also found that the top three drivers for the CEO to respond to climate change were:
Other industry research has shown that an organisation’s approach to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) including sustainability strengthens brand; attracts and retains good staff; increases productivity as well as profitability and long-term viability.
As the biggest contributor to the organisation’s CO2 emissions, the CEO will be looking to the CIO and IT to lead the way in reduction of environmental impact. Therefore the pressure is on IT now more than ever.
Add to these drivers, standards such as ISO 14001; pending legislation and regulation; and increasing competition and the pressure increases even more.
Current IT Initiatives
There are many initiatives that IT is undertaking to address the challenge of increasing power consumption and CO2 emissions.
Included in these is virtualisation, cloud computing, data centre consolidation, application reduction, data de-duplication, server and PC refresh; mobile computing; power management; print management; and redeployment, reuse and recycling.
IT is focusing on technology to reduce the technology impact on the environment. All this is fine but it is a reaction to the growing carbon footprint rather than a proactive approach, which embeds sustainability into process and workflow thus changing behaviours and enabling the required activities to become an “unconscious competency”.
In his book “Green IT In Practice”, Gary Hird describes this like learning to drive. A new young driver starts out as a learner, unaware that they really don’t know how to drive properly. There is then the realisation that there are road rules and “mirror-signal-manoeuvre” actions that need to be learnt properly through the gradual steady improvement in ability that practice and mentoring brings, through to a stage where good driving is second nature. The driver follows a path from unconscious incompetence, to conscious incompetence to conscious competence to unconscious competence. It is the latter state that we need to bring IT into so that sustainability is embedded into everything that we do and becomes business-as-usual.
This is where Service Management comes into play.
But before I discuss that in detail, let me give a couple of examples where good sustainability initiatives have been executed but (a) they should not have been needed in the first place and (b) without sustainability embedded into process they will have to be undertaken again – unnecessarily.
Sun Microsystems undertook large data consolidation efforts over a two-year period and in 2009 recognised that despite those efforts, there was more than could be done and initiated a project called “Bring Out Your Dead” (inspired by the Monty Python’s Holy Grail film). This project was an effort to hunt down and remove orphaned and unused hardware at the company.
In just three months, at four of their major campuses they pulled out 440+ pallets of equipment, 6,199 devices in all with 4,100 of them being servers.
The best was yet to come. In their words: “the icing on the cake was that 64% of the equipment we pulled was still powered on! It was just sitting there burning energy”. The picture below shows 50% of the equipment that was removed which filled one of Sun’s warehouses.
This was like pulling 6000 cars off the road. A great win in terms of sustainability never mind the associated cost savings from the removal of equipment powered on but doing nothing. But why did it get to this and how do you stop it happening again?
It is a given that reorganisations, mergers and acquisitions can lead to additional hardware assets (and software as we will see in the next example) that are not needed. However, with some level of Change Management, Service Asset and Configuration Management and Release & Deployment Management processes, this should be kept to a minimum. Doing a spring clean on the data centre is one thing but letting it get to a state where a major cull is needed is something else.
The second example is from Intel. In the white paper “Building a Long-term Strategy for IT Sustainability” (April 2009), Intel stated that since 2007 they had reduced the number of applications in the environment by almost 37%, making steady progress towards the goal of 50%. Intel expected that retiring applications would result in a net present value of more than USD 50 million.As mentioned before, it is recognised that reorganisations, mergers and acquisitions can lead to additional applications that are not needed (or can be retired over time) but with some level of Service Portfolio Management, Service Catalogue Management and Change Management in place the extent of application duplication or redundancy should be minimal.
Imagine the CEO and CFO having a conversation today with the CIO and congratulating him/her on the outcomes of these sorts of projects. Imagine the conversation two years later if the same project had to be undertaken again! The conversation would be very different. Hard questions would be asked about why the situation was allowed to repeat itself.
Service Management to the rescue!
Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane?..No! – it’s Service Management!
ITIL Version 3 may not explicitly talk about sustainability but at every stage of the service lifecycle there is implicit guidance that can assist Businesses in addressing the environmental challenges of its operations.
The framework allows environmental targets to be built into new and existing products and services through the lifecycle stages of service strategy, design, transition, operation and continual service improvement.
The following are just some examples of how this can be achieved and some of the key processes that can be utilised. It is possible to use every one of the processes contained within ITIL Version 3 (albeit some more than others) to address increasing power consumption and carbon emissions. However it is not possible within the confines of this article to describe them all.
Service Portfolio Management is a primary activity in Service Strategy. Business outcomes and financial targets are key inputs for Service Portfolio Management in the development of new services. Environmental targets should also be inputs for Service Portfolio Management when provisioning new, more sustainable IT services. Managers can then predict performance targets against environmental policies before agreeing to commission a new service. Service Portfolio Management through the activities of “define, assess, approve and charter” should ensure that there is no duplication of services and associated applications that we saw earlier in the Intel example.
Financial Management in terms of cost savings will always be a key driver for energy consumption reduction and improvement in sustainability. Financial Management will be key in understanding the cost of power consumption and the financial savings to be made from sustainability initiatives. Financial Management should drive power metering so that the cost of power can be broken down by data centre, computer room, geographical location, business unit and infrastructure components. Most IT Businesses never see the power bill and therefore have no idea of the cost or savings to be made. Financial Management needs to drive visibility so that resources can be targeted at priority areas of high power consumption and cost.
Understanding the Patterns of Business Activity in DEMAND MANAGEMENT enables IT to respond to demand in a controlled and planned fashion. It is better able to avoid idle capacity, which it neither economic nor ecological. It can forecast demand and also utilise techniques such as off-peak pricing, volume discounts and differentiated service levels to influence the arrival of demand.
New services AND their environmental targets pass through the rest of the lifecycle following Service Strategy.
SERVICE LEVEL MANAGEMENT whilst negotiating with the customer must deal with both the business and the supporting supply chain to agree Service Level Agreements (SLA), Operating Level Agreements (OLA) and Underpinning Contracts.
The important factor here is the existence of joint sustainability policy. Where services are outsourced to one or more partners, the sustainability policy needs to be agreed between all the parties for it to become truly effective in supporting the creation of more sustainable IT services. If the sustainability of IT services is a strategic consideration – and it should be - negotiation with customers and business users must be guided by the sustainability policy.
By using the sustainability policy in this way, the aim is to evolve the process of agreeing SLAs from one based on ‘business impact’ and ‘price’ to one which also considers the environmental impact of an IT service.
A key objective of Service Level Management should be to identify idle services and challenge the business to reduce its energy consumption. Where Businesses want to actively discourage energy waste and influence demand, the Service Level Management process can apply financial measures to reduce the demand for idle services – using energy surcharges. Energy surcharges are additional costs applied to idle services, outside normal working hours, and are used to encourage a reduction in energy consumption.
SLAs should include environmental targets for both the business and IT, in addition to the more traditional ones such as availability, capacity and performance targets.
Within SERVICE CATALOGUE MANAGEMENT, power output and consumption can be a part of the Service Catalogue. Power metering can be integrated into the catalogue so that it can be reported on at an asset level, service level and business unit level. This can show the power hungry business units which are utilising services that may have been poorly designed and contributing to the carbon footprint of the organisation.
The Service Catalogue can also contain details of the energy efficiency of the products and services offered and identification of preferred products and services from a sustainability perspective. If the business is to be able to support the IT sustainability initiatives, it needs to be aware of the current environmental characteristics of each service. Like Governments, the Business can then choose to “subsidise” the business units IT costs if they select more energy efficient devices, applications and procedures to help influence behaviour.
From an Availability Management perspective, resources need to be available when they are needed. This doesn’t mean however that the resources required for peak periods need to be there all the time. Availability Management can look at functionality such as Capacity Upgrade on Demand (CUoD), on/off capacity on demand and backup capacity. These tools bring processors and memory online only as needed to ensure that the organisation isn’t paying for capacity they don’t need – and that they are not using power they don’t need to keep that capacity running.
Capacity Management provides an organisation with the ability to plan how it introduces IT capacity in a more sustainable way. Its purpose is to focus on future business requirements, current service delivery capability and future capability – in order to provide the most energy and cost efficient IT services for the business. Process activities include tuning activities, deriving forecasts, influencing demand and producing the capacity management plan, which includes environmental considerations.
SUPPLIER MANAGEMENT needs to change procurement criteria and processes to favour green products, services and suppliers. This activity starts with a clear documentation of current procurement practices.
Tender documents should include sustainability requirements for the supplier and the products or services being sourced. There should be a focus on the materials and energy used in manufacturing or products or delivery of services; distribution and delivery models; maintenance and support to ensure products operate at maximum efficiecy; recycling, renewal and disposal activities.
Suppliers should be able to demonstrate via an auditable process that they adhere to the claims that they make in regards to sustainability.
Once the sourcing strategy, policy, processes and procedures are in place, existing suppliers should be reviewed to determine whether they meet the required critieria. Where they do not, they should be encouraged to do so, or alternative suppliers should be sourced.
Local suppliers should also be sourced where possible to reduct the impact of distribution and support on the environment.
Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM) understand the assets used by a service so they can be managed. A full understanding of any redundant assets can be identified and removed not only getting financial savings from licence fees etc., but also liberating spare capacity. A first step towards this is to do a complete inventory of servers, software and applications, including the interdependencies between them all via SACM. You need to firstly understand how each physical and virtual server is used, what software is running on it, which business applications it supports and what its actual value is to the business. Then you can work out what to remove, refresh or virtualise unused, unnecessary and inefficient assets.
The Configuration Management System (CMS) can contain environmental attributes on CIs that include cost, energy rating, power consumption, carbon footprint and lifecycle energy footprint.
The attributes of configuration items can include indicators such as energy labels used by ‘white goods’ manufacturers used to label energy efficient IT equipment. This then allows reporting on non-efficient assets so that plans can be made to refresh, replace or remove.
CHANGE MANAGEMENT needs to ensure that the environmental impacts of Requests For Change (RFC) are considered. RFCs should be accepted or rejected using a rationale that includes the environmental impact of that change as well as the financial, business and technology impacts that we generally look at today.
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT should include articles in the Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS) that provide guidance on environmental practices and behaviours that support the sustainability objectives of the organisation. The SKMS should include a reporting suite which includes the performance of the organisation against it’s sustainability targets. A dashboard showing performance and real-time reporting should be considered.
The SKMS should include information and access to courses, seminars, webinars, journals and newsletters etc. that provide information on improving the sustainability of IT and the organisation as a whole. The SKMS should also incorporate external knowledge in relation to sustainability from suppliers, partners and environmental Businesses.
INCIDENT MANAGEMENT reporting should be used to drive improvements in sustainability. This should include (but not limited to):
This type of reporting can allocate a carbon footprint to the item of infrastructure in terms of the distance travelled in order to resolve the Incident.
This can drive decisions as to whether the item of infrastructure should be replaced; a local supplier should be sourced (where possible); spare parts should kept on site to enable local resolution; and so on.
The impact of any actions taken in order to reduce the carbon footprint incurred by support activities can then be measured.
From a PROBLEM MANAGEMENT perspective, the number of recurring Incidents could be resulting in an adverse environmental impact if physical presence to resolve an Incident is required.
If recurring Incidents can be linked to a Problem record, which are resulting in onsite attendance, both the cost of a Problem and the carbon footprint of Problem can be estimated.
This will allow Problem Management to not only report on the reduction in the number of recurring Incidents but also the corresponding reduction in cost and carbon footprint.
Continual Service Improvement
Continual Service Improvement (CSI ) seeks to make gains on financial and environmental performance. The value of CSI should go without saying. It feeds back into every other stage of the lifecycle identifying better ways to become more sustainable.
CSI should drive the baselining of current environmental performance so that clear targets, objectives and timeframes can be set for improvements. CSI should regularly report on the progress of environmental initiatives both internally and where appropriate, externally.
In conjunction with the current initiatives being undertaken by your organisation to reduce its environmental impact, take a look at your service management processes and identify where you can embed sustainability into those processes. IT does not need to seek another framework to help drive reductions in power consumption and carbon emissions; it already has one - ITIL.
Some examples of where this can take place have been provided in this article and there are many more as well.
Look at every stage of the lifecycle, not just Service Operation. It is Service Strategy, Service Design and Service Transition that are delivering the products and services that are contributing to the environmental impact of the business. Service Management has then come to the rescue further ensuring that IT is serving and enabling the Business to perform at its optimum and in line with its charter to the stakeholders.
Karen Ferris is a Director at the Australian company Macanta. She is an industry leader with significant experience in setting industry best practice through extensive contribution to Service Management publications, including ITIL Version 2 and 3, and a sought after international keynote speaker. She is also a Director on the itSMF Australia National Board with the portfolio of publications and a member of the itSMF International Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) working on the establishment of an international service management library.
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