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Green IT – the SAP Perspective

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  • I am curious – When SAP, or another company says they will reduce their carbon fotprint by X%, it is hard for me to understand how close to ideal they are, after that goal is attained. Are there accepted benchmarks on how much emissions are considered ok? or is the general model that every one aims for zero emissions as ideal and then publish how close to zero they are? If companies just say they all cut X% and leave it at that, it is difficult to compare apples to apples.
    • There are no benchmarks for what are acceptable emissions as far as I know. Zero emissions usually mean that no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases are being generated. An electric car can, in theory, have zero emissions but then you would also have to know that the electricity used to charge the batteries in the car did not generate any greenhouse gases.

      So as long as a business consumes resources, such as energy, that are not renewable I think it will be impractical to reach zero emissions although carobon footprint offsets can help.

      From listening to Peter Graf’s keynote talk this morning at SAP Virtualization Week, he reiterated the SAP goal of reducing our carbon footprint by 2020, in absolute terms, to the same level it was in 2000. The main driver of carbon footprint for SAP is the number of employees and, since 2000, the number of employees at SAP has roughly doubled. Between now and 2020 SAP expects to further increase the number of people it employs. This means that SAP is aiming for a reduction of carbon footprint per employee of over 50%. Once (or even before) that figure is reached my guess would be that SAP would set new targets to reduce the carbon footprint per employee even further.

      However, what doesn’t exist (as far as I know), are benchmarks for what is a “good” (or “bad”) goal for carbon footprint per employee. It would be interesting though to create such a benchmark. There is, also, a need to have different benchmarks for different industries. For example someone working in a service industry, such as insurance, should have a different carbon footprint goal than someone working in a manufacturing industry, such as automotive.

      I think many areas of sustainability, both for “Green IT” as well as more generally, are ripe for more consistent standardized approaches to measurement and benchmarking. Only then will we be able to compare apples to apples and know just how good an achievement a 50% reduction in carbon footprint per SAP employee would be.

  • David, I think that if SAP is to truly start a dialogue centered on its own sustaianbility initiatives as well as the Green IT think tank, you might want to consider a broader, though more narrowly defined format as well asa focus on developing a standardization of what sustainability is, as there seems to be ongoing uncertainty about this which will no doubt end folks up on the wrong path.  Here’s a discussion on this point:

    • Hi Neal.
      You make a good point about centralizing SCN community activity on sustainability in one place, such as for Green IT. However I’m not sure that using the wiki for discussions is a good idea – the forum would probably be easier to use. Similarly the forum doesn’t really work as a repository of ideas and documents – the wiki would be better.
      However, I don’t want to suggest a change without consulting with some of my more expert colleagues first so that, ideally, we can come up with one way of doing this for all aspects of sustainability. I’ll come back in a while and update this with what I’ve found out.
  • Novis is one of the biggest SAP TI Services provider in South America.
    We give “SAP as a Service” to our customers, and for us the Green IT is a mayor goal.
    Green IT has fewer costs to us (in Hardware and Administration).
    But the “Green IT” needs the Hardware providers and Software providers to be aligned.

    SAP has been near “Green IT” for some time, but now it shows more commitment to it.
    Congratulation SAP.

    Sergio Soccal
    Novis IT Manager.

  • Hi David,

    A very thought provoking Blog….

    Is it fair to say that ‘Green IT’ initiative is is its infancy and poses many challenges as well as opportunities ?
    As someone mentioned here as How to measure it ? I think the approach to Green IT is to be Holistic and should be observed in all the steps of the IT enablement & deployment and should include all the software and Hardware.
    Before developing any software or deploying any hardware we should seek if there is any way better which will consume less power and will take less people to manage it ? No matter even if we improve just by 1% slowly we would evolve and will get better at it. And as this ‘Green IT’ initiative evolves it will also enable to develop new Business Model / Software models to support it further. I think we are late in this initiative but Better Late than Never.

    Best Regards,
    Vaibhav Bhandari

    • Hi Vaibhav
      So far Green IT seems to be synonymous with reducing data center energy consumption. With virtualization this is relatively easy to do and can result in significant savings. I do agree with you though, that you really need to take a holistic approach to Green IT. This means considering the energy consumed by PCs, networks and printers as well as data centers – as it says in the blog above, data centers only consume 22% of the energy.
      I also agree with you that before deploying hardware or software you should consider the power they will consume … but there’s a catch. For hardware, you need to think where you will get the most value. For example would it be “better” to realize the same energy reduction by using more efficient data center cooling or by using more efficient servers? You don’t know unless you can measure the energy being used by each component of IT Infrastructure, and work out which improvement would deliver the best value. Very few businesses can afford to implement all the efficiency improvements they could do at the same time.
      The same goes for software, the more “efficient” the application, the less energy it will use. For example if, through careful architectural design, you can reduce the number of database accesses by 50% then your server utilization will be lower which means less energy will be consumed. However developing more efficient code is much easier to do when the application is being designed and developed rather than trying to make code efficient once it has been built and deployed. More detail on how to approach this will have to wait for a blog on “Sustainable Code” that I’m thinking of writing …