Asia ups green IT tempo, but can improve

Green IT adoption in region on the rise but continues to lag behind that in other parts of the world, analysts note, adding that primary driver is still cost cutting.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

While green IT deployments in the Asia-Pacific region have yet to match that in other parts of the world, they are on the rise, noted analysts. Green demand and adoption, they added, will continue to grow here as Asian enterprises recognize and reap the benefits of going green, and as government regulations come into play.

Amanda Chen, business analyst at China Market Research Group (CMR), told ZDNet Asia that the trend of Asian enterprises adopting green IT is "positive", but there is still "a long way to go" as companies in the West, particularly North America, are still ahead of the region in deployment.

For example, most data centers in the United States have a PUE (power usage effectiveness) ratio of 1.2 to 1.3, while those in Asia score around 3 or 4, she said in an e-mail interview. The PUE is an energy-efficiency measurement gauging how much power goes directly into computing as compared to ancillary services in a data center facility--a perfect score of 1 means no power goes to extra costs.

Pranabesh Nath, Frost & Sullivan's industry manager for ICT practice in the Asia-Pacific region, said Asian enterprises have taken a "slightly longer time" in adopting green IT--because of "poor awareness" of the benefits of green IT. In addition, the majority of green offerings are launched later in Asia compared to markets such as North America, he added in an e-mail.

Deploying green technologies such as server virtualization can bring about complexities, and while a company can always choose to outsource the task to service providers, "culturally", Asian enterprises have resisted giving up control over their IT systems to third parties, Nath observed.

Furthermore, recent "security blunders" including breaches in the networks of Sony and Sega, have made organizations, especially those handling highly-sensitive customer data such as banks, more cautious about any "loss of control", he said.

CMR's Chen added that most Asian firms have been more "focused on generating profits" and hence fear the "increased costs" associated with green IT deployments, such as having to set aside time. They are "short-term revenue focused", rather than factoring in the savings from long-term profits, she pointed out.

Cost-cutting fuels green IT
Industry insiders nonetheless have optimistic projections for green IT deployments among Asian firms going forward.

Wong Heng Chew, president of Fujitsu Asia, told ZDNet Asia that there is "definitely" an increase in green IT deployments by Asian enterprise customers whose main motivation is "rising energy cost".

As more Asian companies recover from the economic downturn, they look to green IT to be less wasteful and more energy-efficient in order to get the best return on investment (ROI), he explained in an e-mail.

David Skinner, StarHub's vice president of information services, concurred. In an e-mail, he told ZDNet Asia one key reason for the company's green IT adoption is to "maximize the efficiencies" of its data centers, whether in resource or energy consumption, in order to achieve a positive ROI.

As part of its green initiatives, the Singapore telco created hot and cold aisles in its facilities to maximize airflow dynamics in an "economical way". Through server and storage virtualization, StarHub also achieved savings of about S$250,000 (US$203,444) and S$750,000 (US$610,334) respectively, he described.

Another reason is to lower the impact of its operations on the environment by maximizing resource and energy efficiencies that in turn reduce the company's carbon footprint, noted Skinner.

Going green, he added, has reaped "positive benefits" for the company, and the telco will continue to embrace more green IT initiatives where they make "economical sense and also enable it to be a good corporate citizen".

Nath from Frost & Sullivan noted that while some companies, particularly the large ones, deploy green tech to be more environmentally responsible, "by and large" reducing cost and becoming more profitable are the main drivers. "It is more about staying competitive and surviving as a successful enterprise."

That said, there has been a "huge increase" in the number of enterprises in Asia "seriously looking" at green solutions to help them not just increase efficiency but also have a "positive impact on the environment", he acknowledged.

And as more companies recognize how green IT helps them cut down on redundancies and reduce costs, there will be "high growth" in Asian enterprise adoption of all key green IT areas, including server and desktop virtualization and cloud computing, he predicted.

Government, consumer pile pressure
CMR's Chen also noted that consumer demand as well as government intervention will "undoubtedly" raise the number of green IT deployments by Asian enterprises in the coming decade.

The Chinese government, for one, is "paying attention" to green IT for both state-owned and private enterprises. To that end, it has crafted policies to make these companies lower their energy consumption--those that fail to do so face the risk of being shut down, she said

Furthermore, Asian firms that want to expand internationally will need to adapt to global green standards in order to be "accepted" and sell their products in other markets, Chen pointed out.

Ultimately, as green IT deployment increases among more companies--due to legal regulations--so will the realization of the benefits of "substantial" costs saving, making the green IT concept "more popular" in Asia, she pointed out.

Chen's view of consumer demand driving enterprise green IT deployments corroborates with findings from survey earlier in January by Tüv Süd Asia-Pacific conducted in Singapore, India and China. The study found that Asian businesses are missing out on a lucrative opportunity to charge premiums for green-certified goods due to severely underestimate consumers' interest for eco-friendly and sustainable products.

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