E-commerce sites under scrutiny on green credentials


E-commerce sites under scrutiny on green credentials

E-commerce sites generally do not need to have any shop fronts in the real world and they are generally more tech-savvy than traditional businesses. As such, you would expect internet-based businesses to be green. But because they rely on power-hungry servers, routers and storage arrays running 24/7, they are increasingly coming under scrutiny over their green credentials.

The papers were buzzing a few weeks ago when someone calculated that two searches on Google is equivalent to boiling a kettle to make a cup of tea, although Google quickly rubbished the claims as far too high.

The negative image of the previously clean web industries show internet and e-commerce sites must work on their green credentials.

In the Think Ecological survey of 275 business professionals - sponsored by the Business Performance Management Forum, Rackable Systems and Intel - 97% say it is important for internet and e-commerce related businesses to reduce their carbon footprint. Yet the report has found that only a small percentage of budgets are allocated towards green IT. Of internet and e-commerce businesses, 83% spend 10% or less of their budget on purchasing and implementing environmental IT. This weighting towards the bottom end of the budget could signal one of two things: either companies do not see green IT as a discreet line item or they are not funnelling substantial resources towards the problem.

In spite of this, reducing power and cooling costs (79%) and satisfying social responsibility commitments (78%) were by far the top potential benefits of improved ecological practice, followed by positive publicity (60%). 

Companies are keen to use virtualisation, and server and equipment consolidation to reduce the carbon footprint in their datacentres.

The study showed that the top ecological plans for the next year mainly involve reducing printed documents (64%), virtualisation (47%), consolidation (45%), and server efficiency (39%).

Times Warner is one company that has used virtualisation to cut the number of servers in the business. In the report, Simon Tsiu, IT director at Times Warner in Hong Kong, says, "For IT, one of the most significant things we have done is server virtualisation to save power and electricity. Through virtualisation, we have saved about 100 servers since 2001. We have also extended PC life cycles from three years to four years in an attempt to save equipment.

"Now we have an agreement with a partner to refurbish or recycle parts of used equipment. We have also implemented a tapeless backup system to reduce the number of physical tapes we actually use."

Thanks to developments in chip and server design, new hardware is often far more energy efficient than the older machines it replaces. One new server box can often do the job of several older machines, and thanks to breakthroughs in server virtualisation, servers can run multiple applications simultaneously.

With server virtualisation, businesses can consolidate the servers in their datacentres, which reduces cost and lowers carbon emissions. It looks like a win-win for e-commerce.

Green plans for 2009

Source: Think Ecological

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This was first published in February 2009


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