Building green IT, shaping greener tomorrow

The following article presents a snapshot of how Microsoft, a global IT leader, has successfully embarked on this path.

A competitive IT market and growing need for eco-energy conscious solutions offers opportunities to thought leader firms to shape differentiation and consolidate their leadership position. The impact that a business has on the environment today is critical. What this means is that the business is not only driven by ‘Profitability’, but also revolves around two other Ps–People and Planet. Today, not only the businesses need to abide by the complex regulations, they also need to understand the impact of their actions on the environment. In this regard, technology is becoming a potent tool to enhance environmental sustainability of an organization.

As a global technology leader, Microsoft has leveraged the opportunity presented by the environmental and energy considerations to carve a differentiation for several of its products in an increasingly competitive IT market.

The company is committed towards environmental sustainability and making the world a greener place and has embarked on several innovative internal and sustainability oriented technologies. The company’s focus centers around three areas:

• Enabling customers to think green
• Internalizing green initiatives
• Accelerate research breakthroughs

1. Enabling customers think green
Microsoft is enabling organizations to address their environmental sustainability in three ways:

a) Helping customers reduce their energy usage

• PC Challenge: A major challenge for organizations today is to reduce the amount of power consumed by their PCs. PCs are becoming greener with the help of the latest desktop operating systems available today, that have powerful tools to help with power management. Windows 7 for instance, has been built with improved power management in mind. The software provides professionals with relevant tools to troubleshoot power management concerns thereby delivering energy savings while also improving performance and providing a longer battery life.

• Server-side issues: As servers become more and more powerful, the electricity required to operate them grows proportionately. Here too, power management plays a major role by upgrading a server’s operating system. For instance, Windows Server 2008 enables power savings of up to 10 percent over Windows Server 2003 when run on the same hardware at comparable levels of throughput.

• Cloud: Cloud computing is certainly revolutionizing the way we address environmental challenges by providing new ways to visualize information. In line with this, Microsoft is enabling organizations to save energy and carbon by shifting to its cloud based platforms for collaboration and communication thereby enhancing the business service capabilities.

• Identifying inefficiencies
A major hurdle for any organization with respect to reducing the energy consumption is identifying inefficiencies. Microsoft helps companies develop an informed strategy and assess their infrastructure for opportunities to improve efficiencies.

In line with this, Microsoft has developed The Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit Solution Accelerator, designed to simplify the planning process for operating system migrations, for example to Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, and Hyper-V. It performs a detailed inventory of computers on a network and outlines device driver availability and makes recommendations for hardware upgrades.

b) Rethinking business practices
Microsoft helps organizations rethink their business practices and use technology to support more efficient processes. Microsoft offers a host of solutions for this - Collaboration and Unified Communications capabilities are being made available through Microsoft’s Office Communication Server, Exchange Server, Office Communicator, Office SharePoint Service, Office Live Meeting, Office InfoPath and Office OneNote.

2. Internalizing green initiatives
Microsoft understands and embraces the unique opportunity it has to help improve the environment around the world. While Microsoft’s software innovations are helping customers achieve energy efficiency, the company itself is aiming to reduce its direct carbon footprint by 30 percent compared to 2007 levels, by 2012.

The Microsoft campus in Hyderabad has been designed keeping in mind green practices. To begin with, over 40 percent of the 54-acre facility has been landscaped, with Building 3 being declared LEED “Gold Certified.” A rain water harvesting reservoir has been set up in this property, with a capacity of 30,000 litres that is being used for campus irrigation.

Similarly, Microsoft has embarked on similar initiatives across other office in India as well. These initiatives include   recycling paper under a waste management program supported by an NGO and  safe disposal of their e-waste through authorized vendors. Food waste is being composted by the support team and water consumption for various activities is being analyzed by meters. The company also uses energy efficient water-cooled chillers for air-conditioning, non-ozone depleting/eco-friendly refrigerants/coolant in the chillers, solar heaters in gyms and precision air-handling units in the IT labs. By using Microsoft products on a greater scale, employees are also actively supporting the green movement within the company.

3. Accelerate Research Breakthroughs
Microsoft seeks opportunities to apply the power of software to help address issues of pressing concern to governments and individuals around the world. The company has a growing portfolio of partnerships underway to help scientists achieve fundamental breakthroughs on pressing environmental topics and to help society to make use of environmental information.

Today, more than ever, the company is focusing its efforts on environmental sustainability and continuing innovation. By making environmental stewardship a core part of the business operations, the company has not only successfully launched newer offerings in the market place but also secured its position with various stakeholders – thus shaping a ‘win-win’. The future for the company as also the world certainly looks greener!

The author, Gauri Arora is the Lead-Corporate Citizenship in Microsoft India.

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