Green oasis

Despite ongoing economic challenges, the emphasis on environmental sustainability in the Middle East enterprise IT sector is becoming increasingly important as businesses seek out long-term cost-savings and ways to enhance their corporate social responsibility programmes.

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Green oasis
By  Aaron Greenwood Published  October 15, 2010

Despite ongoing economic challenges, the emphasis on environmental sustainability in the Middle East enterprise IT sector is becoming increasingly important as businesses seek out long-term cost-savings and ways to enhance their corporate social responsibility programmes.

From a virtual green IT backwater just 10 years ago, the GCC region is fast emerging as the Middle East’s most focused in its approach to promoting environmentally sustainable technology practice and enterprise IT implementations.

With little legacy infrastructure to consider, this move towards becoming green is being aided by regional governments, vendors and enterprises keen to tackle preconceptions of the region and to promote the emergence of a thriving green economy.

Progress is also been achieved because of the work of scientific research organisations such as the Al Khawarzmi ICT Research Institute in Qatar, and Etisalat-BT Research Centre (EBTIC) inAbu Dhabi; both of whom are working to develop sustainable solutions specifically for the Middle East.

UAE telcommunications company Etisalat is positioning itself at the forefront of green ICT development with one of its most intriguing enterprise offerings being its Managed Energy Services portfolio.

The organisation is working with strategic partners including Pacific Control Systems to offer managed services leveraging Machine-to-Machine and other technologies to enable remote management of relevant sites, sub-systems and devices.

Etisalat is also expanding its virtualisation, cloud computing and telepresence service offerings, according to Amir Rashid, director-business development, Business Solutions, Etisalat.

“The ICT industry is a key player in creating a low carbon society and partnerships such as [ours] with Pacific Controls will have a major impact in this area,” he says.

“Our Managed Energy services will help property owners reduce energy consumption and factor in carbon emissions by monitoring operational efficiencies to secure and control energy consumption. This is achieved by retrofitting and monitoring remote sites, thus eliminating the need for staff to travel to these locations.

“Cloud computing and virtualisation applications also boost green IT initiatives in a big way. Etisalat is in the process of developing [client] services [in these areas].”

Rashid adds that while Etisalat is committed to promoting a green agenda, the industry would benefit from a more collaborative approach to the key issues from regional governments and industry authorities.

“The movement towards green computing is still an emerging trend and the focus on this differs across the industry,” he claims. “Certain multinationals have a green agenda that they follow diligently, while other regional organisations are still on the learning curve in terms of what is needed.

“From our perspective, government leadership on green issues would greatly enhance efforts in this direction and drive adoption. This would be far more effective than industry self-regulation.”

Another widely acknowledged factor that should in theory drive the adoption of sustainable technologies is the inherent long-term cost savings associated with low-powered green ICT solutions.

However, the sophisticated – read often expensive – nature of this technology generally means that many are cast aside by CIOs in IT renewal budgets when short-term ambitions outweigh long-term strategic goals.

“The industry still considers environmental issues as important, but because most are cash-strapped following the crisis of last year, there has been more talk than action,” claims Chandan Mehta, product manager for Fujitsu Technology Solutions.

“Many customers are certainly interested in the green angle, but it’s not always easy to determine how important a factor it is in their decision-making process or the weighting they attach to it,” confers Anthony Harrison, senior principal solutions specialist, Storage and Server Management for Symantec.

“Green credentials are still seen by many as a ‘nice-to-have’ feature, rather than a mandatory one, but it is always a challenge trying to see through the ‘greenwash’ that some companies use to promote their efficiency features while ignoring any other related costs.”

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