Gartner predicts that by 2027, 75% of organisations will have implemented a data centre infrastructure sustainability program driven by cost optimisation and stakeholder pressures, up from less than 5% in 2022.
“Responsibilities for sustainability are increasingly being passed down from CIOs to infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders to improve IT’s environmental performance, particularly around data centres,” said Autumn Stanish, senior principal analyst at Gartner.
She added that this has led many down the path of greater spending and investment in environmental solutions, but environmental impact shouldn’t be the only focus.
"Sustainability can also have a significant positive impact on non-environmental factors, such as brand, innovation, resilience and attracting talent.”Autumn Stanish
A Gartner survey of 221 respondents from North America, Europe and APAC conducted in the second half of 2022, revealed that the environmental performance of IT infrastructure is only one facet of a strong I&O sustainability strategy, with most sustainability benefits being indirect (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Sustainability Program Benefits Based on Top Three Ranked Responses
Stanish commented that success in aligning the I&O strategy with critical business outcomes requires a more comprehensive approach that recognizes the indirect benefits of sustainable IT operations.
“This is true specifically for organisations in which IT is material to the business, such as financial services,” she opined.
Top three indirect benefits
The most effective action I&O leaders can take for the environment and their budget is to defer purchasing new equipment and better manage, optimise, or redeploy what they already have.
According to Gartner, organisations can experience up to 60% in cost savings by simply extending product life spans from three to five years. In addition, optimizing for better server utilization and storage capacity is another way to reduce waste and save money.
Organisations are using sustainable strategies to drive innovation and growth through new products and business models. Technology hardware vendors are rapidly releasing new products and services based on AI technology, analytics insights and circular business models that can be leveraged for innovation.
For example, open telemetry platforms may be deployed to track and improve energy efficiency, while simultaneously offering critical insights for IT staff to understand usage patterns that can be optimised for greater, more consistent performance of systems.
“The core focus of many enterprises with a sustainability strategy is actually around how they can use it to drive innovation, differentiation and growth through new products and business models,” said Stanish.
She conceded that fewer than half of I&O leaders Gartner speaks to are currently taking advantage of the business benefits beyond reduced energy costs.
Better Risk Management and Mitigation
In a market disrupted by price fluctuations and supply constraints, organisations can achieve greater resilience and better risk management and mitigation by adopting sustainable recycling and resource utilisation practices. This includes organisations using renewable energy, generating their own power, and reusing and redeploying equipment as much as possible.
The Gartner survey revealed that more than 85% of business leaders agree that sustainability is an investment that protects the organisation from disruption.