Symantec: IT Industry Talks the Green Talk, Less Than Half Walk It

While Greenpeace is busy scoring and scolding the IT industry and its CEOs for a lack of leadership when it comes to climate change, Internet security company Symantec (s symc) has a somewhat more encouraging takeaway. According to a report released today, Symantec found that a vast majority of IT executives surveyed — 97 percent — are discussing green IT strategy, and concludes that companies are moving from simply implementing green strategies primarily for saving money to what it calls a “more balanced awareness of also improving the organization’s environmental standing.” But while Symantec takes a broadly optimistic tone in its report, it also found that less than half, or 45 percent, of the respondents have already implemented green IT initiatives.

Unsurprisingly, reducing energy bills appears to be the main driver behind the shift to cleaner IT. As is so often the case, the money trail provides insight into this trend. Nearly three-quarters of the IT executives said they expect an increase in green IT budgets over the next year, with nearly one-fifth predicting increases of more than 10 percent. Perhaps more importantly, 83 percent of IT departments report that they are now fully or at least partially responsible for budgeting the electricity they consume. That’s certain to provide an impetus for IT departments to reduce energy costs, according to the report.

At the same time, IT executives said they’re willing to pay a premium for energy-saving products. Two-thirds of respondents said they would pay at least 10 percent more and 41 percent said they would plunk down at least 20 percent more in upfront capital costs.

On average, respondents said they were spending between $14 million and $20 million per year on data center electricity. Indeed, The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that IT-sector electricity accounts for about 1.5 percent of the national total and that IT equipment and data center infrastructure consume twice as much electricity as they did in 2000. Even factoring in energy-saving trends in IT, the agency projects that energy use will double again by 2011.

To temper their energy bills, IT departments have focused on replacing old equipment with more energy-efficient models, the Symantec report found. Other key initiatives: embracing power-monitoring technology and server virtualization. More than half of the 1,052 companies surveyed said their IT departments are looking to software-as-a-service as a “green” solution. The survey did indicate that more than nine out of 10 IT executives recognize the role of cooling when it comes to energy bills. But solutions, among them water-based or fresh-air cooling, for reducing these costs haven’t been widely embraced, according to the report.

While Symantec’s study does point to positive trends, it’s quiet on how effective the green IT initiatives already implemented have been. Saying you have a green strategy in place is not the same as showing the results in terms of reduced energy use. And lest we forget, Symantec sells some products and services that can help companies transition to green IT. The company has something to gain from promoting the idea that IT execs everywhere have embraced or are looking to embrace this shift.