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Inconvenient beat-up

Inconvenient beat-up

Some companies really do want to do their bit to reduce rising temperatures, but others are just warming to the idea of buying green credibility.

If you have never heard of ways to carbon-neutralise your data centre, website, intranet or development blog, don't worry; you will. Ever looking for a hook on which to flog upgrades, the world's technology vendors are going to find a way for your enterprise to offset carbon emissions by buying their kit. This month I was offered a story on a local web-hosting company that had gone to some effort to create carbon-neutral services.

It had bought real trees and sacrificed some profits to create a product it hoped might appeal to an emerging market of environmentally aware consumers.

Vendors all included claims that new products used less power, consumed fewer resources in their manufacture or enabled fuel savings by reducing the need to travel.

Not that you'd ever hear a pitch about how to save resources by not buying a product or upgrade, or not engaging a consultant. Or that computer manufacturers turn a blind eye to where toxic by-products of their "right shored" factories are dumped (penniless economies in the Pacific, Africa and South America).

From box to bin

But here's the real bottom line for CIOs and most CFOs: Over the past couple of years, technology has moved from an asset to a liability on the balance sheet. Nobody recycles a server or a PC any more-it goes from box to bin.

Technology is now remarkably cheap, but the real cost of its safe disposal is cunningly hidden by the suppliers. Just five years ago you could recoup a modest amount from the disposal of a fleet of desktops by selling them to an asset disposal company. But today, you have to pay the same companies handsomely to remove and dispose of such gear.

As for manufacturers like Dell, Lenovo or Hewlett-Packard taking responsibility for the safe disposal of their products-well that idea hasn't set the vendor community on fire.

So as rubbish tips fill up, governments are seeking to regulate disposal of hardware. And the cost of such disposal will be borne by the consumer, either on the showroom price tag or by paying for rubbish removal.

But here's the rub: given the cost of safely destroying toxic waste (old desktops), it could soon cost you more to chuck out your old kit than what you paid for it. That is a quantum shift in looking at how IT budgets might be constructed in the future.

It is also an indication that the real price of technology has been understated. The future for vendors who survive on margins as thin as 3 per cent could be in doubt as companies return to sweating their infrastructure for as long as they can.

This is an issue that nobody in the vendor community wants to talk about, given that it reduces their chances of making the next forced upgrade sale

But the fact remains that as technology has become cheaper, vendors have fallen back on forcing new sales out of forklift-style upgrades by removing support for older versions.

It is true that new machines use less power and can be managed better, and could produce fewer carbon emissions in manufacture. Yet this matters for little if companies are forced into accepting support deals that last only three years and allow producers to speed up their sales cycles artificially and compel end-users to pick up the cost of disposal.

None of the above should in anyway detract from companies that are genuinely looking for ways to reduce greenhouse gas load or engaging in carbon credit

trading schemes.

But technology buyers should ask what their suppliers are doing to lighten the load of rubbish they produce before trying to buy belated greenie street cred.

Julian Bajkowski is deputy editor of MIS Australia.

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