The data dilemma: how IT teams can mitigate information overload and reduce emissions

By Miriam Murphy, European CEO of NTT Ltd.

  • 3 months ago Posted in

COP28 has drawn to a close and sustainability is once again front of mind on a global scale. The 28th edition of the United Nations Climate Change conference came on the back of a summer of high-profile weather events, with much for the world’s leaders to consider over the past two weeks.

One of the thematic focuses this year was technology, and how it can be used to drive greater sustainability within business and society at large. In the era of digital transformation, most businesses are now actively leveraging technology in their day to day working. This presents a promising opportunity to effect swift climate impact and substantial reductions in emissions simply by adopting the appropriate solutions.

But simply adopting data tools or energy efficient equipment in the pursuit of sustainability targets, is not enough to solve the problem. A more holistic approach is needed. Strategy – that is, how we deploy and use technology moving forward, will be just as vital. It is also an area in which we currently appear to be falling short, with recent research from NTT revealing that only 38% of businesses have successfully implemented a comprehensive business-wide strategy for sustainability. I believe this is because not enough attention is being paid to one of the primary causes of emissions within organisations: data.

While many are focusing efforts on recycling and waste reduction; data is actually one of the more pressing challenges businesses are grappling with. As much as 60% of business data is currently unused. But it still has to be stored somewhere, and this is driving significant and unnecessary energy consumption and hampering sustainability initiatives. It’s estimated that data centres are responsible for between 2.5 and 3.7% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide – which is more than the aviation industry!

So how can businesses deal with this data deluge, sustainably?

Switching the focus from equipment to data estates

While a good 58% of businesses deem their IT departments to be essential in driving organisational sustainability, investment tends to be focused on the replacement and installment of energy efficient equipment.

While doing so will undoubtedly form a key part of any reduction in emissions, leaders should also consider the removal of unnecessary and unwanted data from data estates as a top working priority.

Right now, data waste disposal can be overwhelming for IT teams. There are organisational hoops to jump through, with the risk of permanently deleting something that may be of future importance, adding pressure.

In addition, half of business leaders also report challenges when working with suppliers that don’t share their vision for sustainability, which can make the road to clean operations somewhat rocky. Partnerships are key here and business leaders should seek advice from industry experts to help with everything from consulting, technology audits, and strategy, to roadmap designs, implementation, and governance services.

Getting smarter with storage

Beyond partnerships, with data storage needs set to rise in coming years, smarter storage solutions will also play a huge role in making data management practices more sustainable. The best smart data storage solutions will involve the following capabilities in some capacity:

· Intelligent storage provisioning: The overprovisioning of data storage can harm utilisation, so companies should look to intelligent storage-provisioning mechanisms to allocate resources more efficiently based on demand. This ‘thin provision’ eliminates overprovisioning and reduces power consumption. Meanwhile, making sure data is placed on appropriate storage types with optimal redundancy can maximise resource and power efficiency.

· Data deduplication and compression: Data deduplication and compression is an approach that helps IT teams efficiently reduce data volumes. Deduplication ensures that only unique instances of data assets are stored, while compression reduces data size. This lowers storage capacity requirements, thereby cutting power consumption of storage devices and cooling systems.

· Tiered storage architecture: Tiered storage architecture aligns where data is placed with its access patterns, optimising overall power consumption and enabling data centres to match the performance and power requirements of data with the best storage tier.

The future starts today

COP28 has certainly surfaced new approaches to climate change, both short and long-term. For businesses driven by digital technology, the tools are already out there to make a real difference by reducing emissions almost immediately.

Collaboration will be key to doing that successfully. Partnerships, of course, facilitate the provision and deployment of technology, but they also enable the sharing of insights and help businesses find innovative ways to streamline data processes. This collaborative effort is a crucial step towards initiating a more sustainable future today and importantly, sets the pace for continued efforts towards lasting change.

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