IBM’s Project Big Green aims to apply a green IT approach throughout the organization, utilizing opportunities in infrastructure optimization, knowledge-worker productivity and middleware. The green IT debate so far has focused on datacenter issues, and IBM must demonstrate positive trial results affecting not only infrastructure savings, but success in tackling real environmental challenges.
IBM has announced the latest in a series of announcements relating to Project Big Green, its software strategy for a greener world, which suggests that green IT is evolving into holistic strategies, Growing concerns regarding anthropogenic climate change, coupled with the explosive rise in cost of energy, have thrust developments in green IT into the limelight. Although the environmental implications of IT are discussed with increasing frequency, case studies are confined to the datacenter, and the potential benefits of consolidation, virtualization and smart cooling.
Initial focus on the IT infrastructure is understandable; the potential benefits of environmental optimization in the datacenter are relatively clear and easy to implement. Broadening the green IT agenda follows the maturation of environmental debate at large. For example, the aviation industry attracted an amount of attention that was disproportionate to its 3% contribution to the total CO2 emissions output at one point, only to be supplanted by a more comprehensive debate on the emissions.
IT infrastructure is still perceived as the logical starting point for green initiatives, having contributed around 1.5% of total electric energy consumption in the US during 2006 alone. Lately, however, Datamonitor has noticed signs that green IT is evolving beyond the datacenter. In that light, Project Big Green, presented through a series of announcements in May and June, is indicative of a shift towards a mature and holistic approach to green IT.
While infrastructure optimization still forms the core of IBM’s green agenda, the recent announcements touch upon a broad range of issues grouped around three topic areas: infrastructure, workload and people. In reality, the tripartite division reflects IBM’s capabilities and portfolio structure. The infrastructure tier involves optimization and monitoring through IBM’s hardware and Tivoli offerings, while the people component is concerned with the optimization of human resources through better productivity, fitting neatly with the IBM Lotus range.
Between infrastructure and people, IBM places the workload tier, which is concerned with engendering processes that are designed with the dual demands of energy efficiency and business agility in mind. Although less well defined in terms of product mapping, it is clear that the workload tier corresponds to IBM’s middleware capabilities, from its WebSphere and Information Management product lines.
Datamonitor finds the workload portion of IBM Project Big Green of particular interest. An innovative use of BPM and SOA can be vital in establishing sustainable business processes, optimized with environmental issues in mind. Furthermore, Datamonitor also identifies BPM and SOA, particularly when coupled with business activity monitoring and performance management, as crucial elements enabling continuous monitoring of the performance of optimized processes. The benefits of rigorous process monitoring are not only found in closed-loop project optimization, but also in measuring and demonstrating the impact of green initiatives.
While IBM’s holistic strategy for green IT is welcome, most of the case studies supporting the announcements relate to the software role of infrastructure optimization, such as Tivoli Green Service Management, or Tivoli Maximo Enterprise Asset Management efforts to optimize energy consumption. The lure of immediate savings on the infrastructure is still very strong. Datamonitor certainly does not recommend abandoning those opportunities, yet if the green IT agenda is going to tackle real environmental challenges, vendors such as IBM will have to demonstrate tangible examples of success in the workload tier. Datamonitor believes that this will only be possible through an inventive use of BPM, SOA and related middleware technologies.