Book review: Green IT in Practice

Green IT need not be complex – a great deal can be achieved by taking a little time to put together a plan, identifying some simple actions, and putting in place some processes to ensure that these are followed through.

This is one of the key lessons from Gary Hird’s concise and lightweight book, Green IT in Practice: How One Company is Approaching the Greening of its IT. The book is about the experiences of a common-sense practitioner trying to work out what to do about Green IT without having a road map to hand; there is no preaching, no attempt to explain the intricacies of climate change or data centre free air economisers, no complex change management methodologies. And it is refreshingly free of consulting gobbledispeak.

Hird is the technical strategy manager at retailer John Lewis Partnership, the third-largest privately held company in the UK. The company is not typical: because it is owned by a trust on behalf of its staff, ethical-driven projects, such as Green IT, can potentially get better employee and management buy-in than at other companies. Hird is primarily motivated by environmental concerns, rather than financial ones.

John Lewis began its Green IT push earlier than most – in late 2006. A first step was to “visit the CSR department” – something that many IT people fail to do. In Hird’s experience, CSR provided valuable guidance, processes and objectives that could be applied to Green IT. After this, an initial risk and opportunity analysis led the company to begin undertaking two projects even before the full Green IT initiative was fully defined: server virtualisation and desktop power management. In both cases, John Lewis recognised it could reduce energy use and save capital and/or operating costs without a large upfront investment.

Hird goes on to describe John Lewis’s take on other technologies and practices – some of which the company has adopted, some it is still watching. These include more efficient coding, greener procurement practices, reduced printing, data centre power use, storage area networks, ‘sleepy disks’ and disposal. In most cases, he is modest, merely discussing possibilities and admitting that John Lewis has yet to work out a full solution.

For senior IT managers, two chapters are likely to prove particularly interesting: these describe how to get started, and how to work out a methodology and a technology road map. This includes techniques used at John Lewis to evaluate and visualise the impact and maturity of various technologies.

There has been a flood of books on Green IT but most fail to get the pitch right: they are either too simplistic or become bogged down in the technologies, issues and science. Gary Hird’s short book is a valuable, clear primer, based on real experience.

Green IT in Practice: How One Company is Approaching the Greening of its IT. By Gary Hird. Published by IT Governance Publishing. ISBN: 1905356617.
Price: £29.95

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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