Go green – ditch the server in the closet

Go green – ditch the server in the closet

With energy use in the news, sustainability has become a key concern for Irish businesses, but a persistent myth has slowed adoption of technology that could make a difference.

Peter Rose, group technical director, TEKenable

In today’s climate, one of the key considerations for businesses is, well, climate. As a result, adhering to environmental, social and governance (ESG) frameworks that measure external impacts has become the norm for large organisations, particularly public sector bodies as well as listed companies seeking investment by fund managers.

This is as true in Ireland as it is in other countries. Peter Rose, group technical director at developer and cloud specialist TEKenable, said that there has been a noticeable shift toward taking sustainability seriously.

It may not be entirely organic, he said, but businesses do think about the environmental impact of their operations.

“It is primarily being driven by regulation, not so much by enthusiasm for matters ESG. That’s not universally true, of course, as there are some companies that have a fire in them for all the reasons we would like, but in most cases they are doing it because they have to,” he said.

This is not surprising. As Rose said, ensuring compliance is what rules are for: “That’s the purpose of regulation. If people just did things of their own accord, we’d not need to regulate them.”

One of the things that any organisation can do to reduce its environmental impact is to shut down its servers and move to cloud computing platforms.

Although hard figures are not easy to come by, anyone with enterprise IT or board experience will know that Irish companies have not led the pack when it comes to adopting cloud computing. While software-as-a-service (SaaS) has proved popular, thanks in no small part to a major push by Microsoft, many Irish businesses continue to run mission-critical applications on on-premise hardware shoved in a closet somewhere.

Rose said that one issue is that pushback against data centres has clouded the reality that on-premise hardware consumes vastly more energy than properly-architected cloud applications.

“They have [adopted cloud], but not in the way you might think. There has been a bit of pushback against cloud because people heard they [data centres] were hoovering up all the energy in the city. The reality is the data centres are much more efficient, particularly if you use cloud: if you move an application properly, and take the workload to hyper-optimised infrastructure, and it’s shared, then there is a major saving.

“It takes a certain amount of power to just keep a server on so that it’s ready when you need it. If you move it to the cloud when you’re not using a workload, you’re not using any power,” he said

How much of a saving can be made will depend on the application and how frequently it is used, but Rose said a report by analysts Forrester showed an average line-of-business workload could result in a staggering 98 per cent power saving.

Of course, porting applications is a daunting task, so inertia can set in.

Rose said that refactoring and redevelopment of applications tended to come as part of a natural progression. In addition, he said, when an application has become a bottleneck, this is the time to think about redeveloping it specifically for the cloud. After all, while you can virtualise an on-premise application and run it in the cloud, this results in a kind of halfway-house situation.

“Usually, people have applications that are end-of-life: they served a purpose and they don’t owe the company any money.

Now they want a new application that does different and better things. It’s not normally a ‘lift-and-shift’; usually they are thinking about it in terms of digital transformations and what new things it can do,” he said.

This, he said, resulted not only in the ability to deliver new products and services to customers and staff, but also reduced risk by reducing technological debt.

“You get rid of this lurking server thing in the corner that was a risk to the business, and which no-one even really knows quite how it worked or what it did, and was at risk of being unplugged by someone who needed to use a vacuum cleaner,” he said.

The above text was reproduced from the interview published in Business Post on March 8th, 2024.

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