Carrots and sticks to help drive green IT in Asia

A mix of both push and pull factors helps instill and incentivize green awareness and implementation in Asia companies that are currently short of energy-efficient efforts, says company exec.

SINGAPORE--A carrot-and-stick approach would help drive higher awareness and implementation of green datacenter technologies in Asia, said an executive from IT ops management solutions firm Raritan. He argued that companies in the region are lagging behind their Western counterparts in taking steps toward green efficiency and measurements.

Chris McPherson, president, Japan, and vice president, Asia Pacific, sales and marketing at Raritan, told ZDNet Asia that Asian companies are not yet seeing the full importance of implementing green technologies--even though they have the expertise and knowledge--because of their rapid growth and business targets.

McPherson explained that Asian organizations are driving the growth engine globally, so their immediate need is to service their businesses and operations. Whereas in other parts of the world, businesses are growing and more stabilized, so the focus is geared toward being more energy-efficient.

He also pointed to the short-term business goals of companies in Asia-Pacific (APAC). Because of the immense rate of growth, these companies are looking at a shorter period of return on investment (ROI). In other words, these firms want the costs and benefits to be effective immediately when they start to implement green technologies. "It's a [difference] in horizon focus [in terms of returns], more than anything else," McPherson remarked.

He recognized that several governments in Asia, particularly China and India, heavily subsidize power in order to sustain the booming business climate. He pointed to a Frost & Sullivan February report that stated that the datacenter services market in Asia will only continue to soar, thanks to the rise in business and Internet subscribers, which will churn revenues exceeding US$10.68 billion by end 2011.

Adopt a reward and fine approach
Hence, one way to "push" for green uptake, he said, is to have governments either reduce subsidized power bills or increase subsidies for green energy. However, these efforts are currently slow and minimal, which only lead companies to prioritize less on being energy-efficient, he remarked.

McPherson said that it is government legislation rather, that would make most enterprises sit up and take some action about being green, particularly when driven to a cost or output level by law. For instance, if the government implements a maximum amount of carbon emission for data centers, that would probably and quickly drive them to attain a certain level of energy efficiency, he said.

McPherson acknowledged that the Asian companies he's worked with do implement some level of green technology on their own initiative. But he suggested that a carrot-and-stick approach that comprises push-and-pull factors could create a sizeable impact to increase awareness and implementation of green technologies.

To motivate companies to be greener, he pointed to the U.S. as an example. While there is State legislation for energy efficiency, there are also incentives such as the more efficient a company's data center is, the more rebates it gets from its power supplier.

Measure and monitor
In the Frost & Sullivan report, analyst Chengyu Wu pointed out that the focus on green initiatives in Asia has moved in the direction of cost savings rather than corporate social responsibility. She added that discussions have centered mainly around concepts such as virtualization and utility computing emerging in the data center segment.

Raritan's McPherson agreed that virtualization is one way to help companies manage green costs since not as many servers need to be deployed, which consequently brings about savings in real estate expenditure.

He stated that it is important companies find out which servers they should virtualize, which involves knowing which ones are running on maximum or low output. Raritan has intelligent rack power distribution units (PDUs) that help companies measure and monitor how much capacity the individual servers have, in order to make informed decisions.

McPherson emphasized that employing such information and management tools helps companies to find out what is really happening at their device level and measure the individual outputs in order to make better decisions on reducing spending and maximizing savings. "The electricity bill is for the total cost of the data center, but to break that down as to what each component is costing you, it is only recently that tools are available [to do so]," he said.