Keeping the Lights on

It’s been a week of Green initiatives that may have been lost in the excitement of Euro 2012 and the Olympics build up. It serves to remind me how Green issues and energy consumption are so vitally important to the IT Industry and also, sadly, how few of us are taking action.

  1. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio (Rio+20) aims to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges.
  2. The UK government has, this week, announced mandatory Carbon Reporting for top 1800 businesses.

Key aspects about this compulsory reporting of corporate carbon footprints are:

  • Carbon reporting to be part of the Annual Report
  • Reporting required from April 2013
  • Reporting will be in addition to other schemes, e.g. Carbon Reduction Commitment
  • Reporting will be reviewed in 2015, with a view to roll out to all large businesses from 2016

Like it, or not we are all going to have to be more involved in measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of the organisations for which we work. Much of the carbon footprint of UK organisations is generated by their IT – be it in-house or transferred to an Outsourcer.  The carbon footprint of the IT Industry is now greater than that of the global airline industry. Some 40% of the energy consumption within a typical administration complex is due to that used by the IT infrastructure.

It is ironic that, in many organisations, the energy required to cool IT equipment is actually higher than that needed to power it in the first place. Some organisations are already re-locating their data centres outside of London because there is insufficient capacity locally to ensure continuity of supply.

Being Green is a generic term used to label any product or action meant to help the environment. It can mean many things to different people. For example: buying products made of sustainable material; products that are made with natural ingredients; eating locally or organically; eating less or without meat; conserving energy; using renewable energy or  clean energy; creating your own energy; planting trees; recycling, etc.

Without a doubt, we need to get really serious about exploring the Green dimension to managing our IT. The ISEB Foundation Certificate in Green IT is a really good starting point. This link to the BCS website contains more information as does the Sysop website.

Many IT service continuity plans are fundamentally flawed

Many IT service continuity plans are fundamentally flawed. Most business managers expect that all IT services will be restored within 48 hours or so of a disaster. Alarmingly, Sysop research indicates that it may actually take six months before all services are returned to normal!

The mismatch between expectation and practical delivery is brought about by a number of incorrect assumptions, including:

  • that non-critical services can be recovered in similar timescales to the “mission critical” services for which detailed ITSC plans have been developed.
  • that all services can be recovered to readily available “commodity hardware”.
  • that suitably-qualified IT personnel will be available to support the recovery in the numbers required for the time required.

But crucially, the most significant factor is the high levels of support effort required to sustain the newly-recovered services. This support commitment will drastically reduce the resource available to recover the remaining services.

Most IT departments have around 20% of their services defined as “mission critical” in a total population in excess of 50.Some 80% of services will take more than two weeks to recover; 50% will take more than a month; 25% will take more than three months.

IT Services Need to be Available in a Crisis
Experience of major contingencies (i.e. those that affect more than just IT infrastructure) reveals that emergency co-ordination teams need effective IT immediately. As the precise nature and impact of the contingency cannot be predicted, IT specialist resource is needed to provide emergency co-ordination teams with their requirements in an efficient and flexible manner. This activity will always take priority over the recovery of routine IT. As organisations become increasingly IT dependent it becomes even more necessary for routine IT (and the data / information upon which management depend) to be available to manage the crisis.

Building a Disaster Tolerant Infrastructure
By planning strategically it is possible to develop an I.T. infrastructure capable of maintaining IT service continuity throughout even a major contingency. modern server clustering and data storage mirroring can ensure the automatic fail-over of every single system within minutes – requiring no resource, intervention or dependency on scarce IT skills. With correct planning a highly-available infrastructure can be implemented with no overall increase in the Total Cost of Ownership.