Sweating Our Assets in a CapexLite World
The greenest purchase is often no purchase at all. Many items will have made much of their life-cycle energy/carbon impact by the time they hit our loading docks. "Sweating our assets" refers to getting more productivity and longer lifecycles out of what we already have, an even more critical skill now that access to cheap capital has diminished. There are two GreenICT reasons for doing this.
The first is that the majority of gear's environmental impact is said to occur during the production phase - extraction, processing, manufacture, distribution - rather than the actual use.*
Solutions include application of technology, like virtualization to extend the capacity of under-utilized servers, and best practices, like reducing the need for new storage by periodically archiving infrequently-used data offline.
Now, 'sweating our assests' is being integrated into the language of enterprise IT as a result of current economic reality. The CIO Executive Board suggests CIOs learn to "master trade-offs between extending lifecycles and retiring systems" in the new "capexlite" environment. ('Capexlite' or 'capex-light' refers to current constraints on lower capital expenditures for IT, but may also signal a long-term shift in IT investment strategies.) In talking about capexlite options such as cloud computing and SaaS, the Board declares, "CIOs must revisit their sourcing strategies, expanding their focus from upfront negotiation to lifecycle value management", but cautions, "...the value realized across the lifecycle of these past sourcing efforts is not encouraging. Many IT organizations struggle to find the right structure and talent to effectively manage vendors and fail to reap the hoped for scalability and innovation."
A Network World article by Ann Bednarz sources Bob Houghton, CEO of IT asset recovery and disposition vendor Redemtech, to put numbers on to the practice. If you can extend the life of a PC from 36 to 48 months, you can save $600 to $700 in total cost of ownership for every $1,000 of original procurement expense...For every dollar they spend refurbishing and redeploying, they defer $14.50 in new procurement." Bednarz also reports, "In an IDC survey, nearly 75% of respondents reported buying refurbished PCs, servers, storage and peripherals."
* 75% of the environmental cost of a PC is expended before the PC is switched on. See reference in comment below.