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Special Report: What's the Environmental Impact of a Data-Driven Organization?

AI, machine learning, data analytics, and supercomputing are core to the modern enterprise IT toolkit, but those data- and compute-intensive activities take a toll on the planet. How can CIOs balance sustainability / ESG and digital transformation?

Sara Peters

April 10, 2023

4 Min Read
green IT and being creative
Brian Jackson via Alamy Stock

Environmental science and technology researchers alike are ardently studying the voracious energy demands and carbon emissions of machine learning and artificial intelligence, searching for "green AI." Efforts like Digital Cleanup Day urge the average user to tidy up their overflowing inboxes to reduce the pressure on hot, panting cloud servers. But "Green AI" surely will not be green enough. And when data storage gets too tight, most of us respond by loosening the belt on iCloud, OneDrive, or Google Docs and proceeding to gobble data at the same rate as before.

Often an assumption that more data, better data, more powerful computers, more intelligent computers will automatically provide life-saving, earth-shattering, business-empowering insights. And they can. Or they can just take up space, waste money, waste energy, and generally make a mess. Respondents to a recent InformationWeek study told us that "data analytics and data-driven initiatives" were the main reason that their data volumes were increasing at leaps and bounds, and 90% acknowledged that environmental sustainability is or should play a role in getting a handle on data management.

So we're devoting an entire week of coverage to the topic. If AI, machine learning, data analytics, and supercomputing could potentially take a toll on the planet, how can you run them most responsibly and efficiently? How can CIOs and CDOs balance sustainability goals and digital transformation?

Stay with us this week, and be part of the solution.

A New Generation and the Future of Sustainable Computing

by Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter: The Gen Z generation has grown up with both powerful technology and a keen awareness of environmental impact. How will their perspectives as the new data scientists and stakeholders shape the future of sustainable computing?

Offloading Networking Chores to Improve Data Center Power Efficiency

by Sal Salamone, Managing Editor, Network Computing: (from Network Computing) New technologies like DPUs, IPUs, and CXLs offload switching and networking tasks from server CPUs. They have the potential to significantly improve the data center power efficiency and sustainability.

How Do Supercomputers Fit With Strategies for Sustainability?

by Joao-Pierre Ruth, Senior Editor, InformationWeek: Supercomputers broke the exascale barrier, marking a new era in processing power, but the energy consumption of such machines cannot run rampant.

4 Green IT Businesses Working to Reduce Computing's Impact on the Environment

by John Edwards, Technology Journalist and Author: A green business integrates sustainability and conservation into its business model. Here’s a look at four companies that are achieving IT industry success while minimizing environmental harm.

4 Ways to Make Data Analytics More Efficient

by Pam Baker, Contributing Writer: Finding a path forward that is profitable and sustainable in the face of rising cloud costs, economic uncertainty, and burgeoning environmental crises is a struggle. Here are some tips.

Can You Measure the True Costs of Being a Data-Driven Business?

by Samuel Greengard, Investigative Features Reporter, Sustainability: Do the business returns on your data analytics project outweigh the environmental impacts and financial costs? Finding accurate metrics isn’t so easy.

5 Ways to Reduce the Amount of Data You're Storing

by Pam Baker, Contributing Writer: Data hoarders beware. The cost and risks in stored data are higher than you think.

One Company's Experience With Data Center Sustainability Certification

by Richard Pallardy, Investigative Features Reporter: Sustainability is an increasing focus of data center management. DEEP certification allows companies to independently verify that they are meeting sustainability criteria.

The ESG Market is Maturing

by Samuel Greengard, Investigative Features Reporter, Sustainability: The pressure is on for enterprises to become more sustainable. But selecting the right tools and knowing where to focus can be frustrating. Breaking down ESG requirements is a critical step in finding the right ESG vendor.

4 Big AI Sustainability Prospects, and One Big Problem

by Shane Snider, Senior Writer, InformationWeek: With the hype swirling around AI’s generative language possibilities, some of the less discussed benefits could drive innovation for a sustainable future. But there’s a snag that needs a solution.

How to Drive Sustainability Through Technology

by Kristin Moyer, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner: As environmental sustainability becomes a top business priority, CIOs can look to AI, IoT, and blockchain to drive sustainability outcomes.

Read more about:

Data Architecture

About the Author(s)

Sara Peters

Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing

A journalist for 20 years, Sara Peters has spent most of her career covering cybersecurity and enterprise IT, with a dash of basketball on the side. Before joining InformationWeek and Network Computing, she was senior editor at Dark Reading and a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. 

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