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BT: ready to become a Green tech Giant?

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BT already competes directly with IBM and other IT services firms on the network and support side, but now green computing and sustainability services represent an opportunity for to offer large scale transformational consulting to customers. Where does corporate social responsibility end and competitive advantage begin? BT plans to find out.

A cursory glance at BT’s strategic supplier list indicates its no friend of IBM – BEA, HP, Oracle, and Sun feature heavily on the preferred supplier list for the 21st Century Network its building out.

It used to be a bit of a stretch to see BT as an IBM competitor (wins such as the UK National Health Service Spine notwithstanding). The transition from legacy telco to modern service provider is not an easy one, but it is finally beginning to look the part:

BT acquired Counterpane, one of the biggest managed security services firms in the world.

BT is bringing in wiki and open source experience, in the shape of Jeremy Ruston. It makes perfect sense for BT to aggressively support OSS, given it wants to be be in the service, rather than IT product business. 

BT now offers a suite of collaboration tools, using free offerings to tempt customers, with premium paid tools. It still has work to do, but the idea makes sense. 

BT is practicing agile development.

BT already competes with IBM Global Technology Services. But sustainability will bring it into competition with IBM Global Business Services. Early customers for BT sustainability services-measuring and reducing carbon footprint-include Walkers Crisps and Tesco.

According to BT it worked with OASIS, the woman’s clothing retailer, to achieve savings of 20/30% on supply chain costs; with clear environmental benefits.

The drive for better environmental performance will affect IT widget and software purchasing, sure, but really that’s just the price of entry. Companies are going to need better processes not just lower power hardware… 

In fact one of the areas BT is most scornful about its data center supplier/competitors is in the area of power use. Steve O’Donnel, global head of data centres and customer experience management said at a recent BT analyst event:

“Traditional data center suppliers are more interested in tweaking the edges. I think we’re light years ahead of HP and IBM in in electrical and mechanical systems.”

Telco equipment, unlike IT gear, traditionally works at ambient temperatures, which BT believes gives it a competitive edge in terms of sustainability.  BT’s 21st Century Network will all be refrigeration free, so leveraging its purchasing power. 

While IT suppliers compete to deliver more intelligent cooling BT wants to remove it all together. That’s a fairly significant difference of approach.

Internally BT is working hard to Suez every last bit of energy out of its IT processes. For example, it is currently carrying out a full audit of all backups across the company, ensuring it is only backing up data when it should, and only keeps data for as long as it needs to. We’re not talking Sarbanes-Oxley 404 here, but a different set of compliance constraints for records management. This time compliance with energy efficiency standards. 

“Why leave it all on disc? Tape is the greenest storage medium.”

When the biggest companies in the world start talking about the efficiencies and green characteristics of tape versus disc you know the world has changed. One company that has to be pleased with the change is Sun Microsystems, having acquired StorageTek. If you’d like to know more about Sun’s green initiatives from a European perspective you might enjoy this RedMonk TV interview with Richard Barrington.

Climate change is going to change the game in every industry, from farming to tea to telecoms, creating new opportunities and new challenges for existing suppliers. BT is likely to be a winner in all this upheaval if it keeps a clear focus. Accenture, IBM, Deloitte and so on have a new competitor.

bonus links- more detail over at the GreenMonk blog, parts 1 and 2.

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