As corporate sustainability increasingly exercises influence on IT decision making, the question becomes how will it affect technology adoption trends. Will cloud adoption accelerate as result?
The public cloud provides a good story for corporate sustainability in its "reveal" of resources consumed.
Measured resource utilization (MRU) billing can be easily converted into corporate sustainability metrics of carbon emitted or averted, the equivalent to cars off the road, etc. And with the "shared" nature of public cloud equipment, it also tells a story more akin to public transportation. Meanwhile extant enterprise IT’s reputation of low-utilization assets, comatose equipment and rate card chargebacks seem more analogous to traffic jams of one person per vehicle.
To ascertain the environmental impact of IT, enterprise corporate sustainability departments can team with cloud providers, who are very ready to have the discussion—and provide facts and figures—about the operational efficiencies and waste reduction inherent to their service offerings.
The hyperscales have already been leaders in, and the greatest influencers of, improved or self-provisioned utility sources, renewables and resource conscientiousness overall. Microsoft, Google/Alphabet and Amazon have all committed to strategic initiatives to add 60 GW of renewables to the grid in the pursuit of a "100 percent renewable internet." Their scale invites some scrutiny as they work to address their own environmental impact stories, but the good news is these companies have also rallied other organizations to the cause and to further impact change.
Waste in the cloud
However, efficient operations and renewable energy is not a license to waste. Note that while the use of a public cloud platform running on renewables is certainly progressive, it does not entirely demonstrate good stewardship of environmental and corporate resources.
What are the assurances that resources allocated with the new form of control are monitored and best leveraged? Public cloud can be wasteful for the same reasons attributed to extant IT infrastructure:
- Hasty programming
- Absent stakeholders
- Lack of knowledge or utilization of resource-reducing features
- Infrequent or non-existent oversight
- Distributed buying/purchasing behaviors with no program/policy
The issue is not a lack of tools; there's a whole support industry around public cloud to help use it better and more efficiently. However, the organizational structure and individual impetus must be in place to avail of these tools and features. Corporate sustainability has a unique role, and leverage, to ensure that technology adoption is not only more efficient than the old ways, but that it is inherently resource-conscious.
Extant enterprise IT needs to move beyond emotionally driven efforts to stem or claw back cloud adoption. Instead, IT teams need to collaboratively work with their corporate sustainability counterparts to develop business-level KPIs demonstrating "best use of assets."
Outsourcing is no guarantee of efficiency or fiduciary responsibility—there is no better example than enterprises overprovisioning space or power in a colocation environment. Rather than focusing on the compute venue, IT needs to address the management behaviors that lead to waste.
To assess inherent best use of resources, corporate sustainability will have to gain insight and influence into the ways and means of IT provisioning and procurement. This will have to encompass both extant IT infrastructure, which is arguably obscured in terms of cost and utilization, and public cloud, which is believed to be the opposite. The latter will be easier and thus preferred, and that natural bias could be carried forward to more cloud adoption.
Cost and utilization insights into extant IT are not impossible, and they don’t require investment in a new suite of tools. Plus, extant IT infrastructure management may want to show their benefits to organizations in ways that are resonant, or even competitive, with public cloud.
Corporate sustainability’s mission and outreach will be the impetus for new forms of control even in old systems. But we can’t be surprised if the inflexibility of existing IT, when weighed against the perceived ease of public cloud, persuades corporate sustainability to hasten the speed of the transition off premise.
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