Green Security Technology: The New Corporate Color?

From carbon-neutral clouds to net-zero data centers to completely renewable power, green technology is rapidly becoming a viable option for global corporations hoping to both improve long-term outlooks and align operations with changing consumer sentiment.

Consider current projects by companies such as Salesforce, Apple and Toyota. According to Greentech Media, Salesforce recently achieved net-zero carbon emissions, while Apple and Toyota installed massive solar power systems to offset existing power consumption. It’s no surprise that these and other enterprises are now looking for ways to implement environmentally responsible IT and deploy green security technology, but what does this look like in practice? How can corporations identify green solutions, and what are the downstream implications for businesses trying on the newest corporate color?

Greener Pastures

Cloud computing and multitenant data centers naturally lend themselves to environmental stewardship. As noted by ICT Footprint, moving from local stacks to the cloud typically increases server utilization from around 15 percent to 65, 75 or even 80 percent, depending on the cloud provider. This results in less time spent powering servers simply to hold data and, in turn, reduced overhead and environmental impact.

But it’s not quite that simple for green technology adopters. The energy required to power large-scale data centers is substantial, even if enterprises aren’t on the hook to pay the bill. New solutions are emerging to tackle this challenge, such as leveraging geolocation to maximize free energy. For example, data centers in Iceland can take advantage of year-round free cooling while the development of solar, wind and geothermal energy technologies helps limit dependence on coal-based electricity.

Long story short: While companies enjoy an obvious benefit from adopting cloud solutions by limiting their on-site power consumption, simply outsourcing energy requirements doesn’t guarantee environmental success.

Cloud Considerations

Cloud security technology is a hot market. According to Digital Journal, the cloud market will expand at a 12.80 compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to $11.8 billion by 2022. Such a pace isn’t entirely surprising. As cloud security vendors both specify and diversify, and as their offerings equal or outperform on-site solutions, it’s no longer cost-effective for chief information security officers (CISOs) to leverage local security tools.

But beyond simply adopting cloud and reaping the benefits of reduced energy consumption, what does green security tech look like in practice? Right now, there’s no standardization in this field. Any move from local stacks counts as a slightly green shift. However, it’s not hard to imagine the development of more specific green practices. Below are a few examples.

Software-Dependent Controls

While recent years have seen the development of hardware-based security boxes that offer on-site protection, these devices naturally carry more environmental impact than their software-defined counterparts. Expect a shift to lightweight, network-optimizing security controls as part of the green initiative.

Artificial Intelligence

AI is already being touted as one solution to people-heavy security issues, but there’s a secondary benefit to automation empowered by intelligent infrastructure: time. By reducing the amount of time and effort required for security experts to remediate security issues — therefore reducing their overall use of compute resources and power — companies come out both greener and more secure.

Reusable Resources

IT security is undergoing a fundamental shift. Experts recognize that it’s no longer enough to defend endpoints since the sheer number and type of endpoints makes this type of defense impossible, even as protection gurus such as Bill Burr speak out against long-held password rules that see users constantly changing their credentials using strings of nonsense characters. In a post-perfection world, where total security is an impossible outcome, expect to see a rise in reusable security resources that are designed to grow along with IT initiatives rather than be replaced by the next new product.

Barriers to Green Security Technology Adoption

So what’s stopping a wholesale green security technology revolution? Why aren’t more enterprises coloring outside the lines and using green support as a market differentiator?

There are two key obstacles. First is pressure from within the industry itself. As noted by The Verge, current trends center around convincing users and companies to buy more products more often rather than maintain or repair the devices they have.

Consider the iPhone, Apple’s most popular product and now a mainstay of corporate culture. The smartphone is designed to naturally resist repair. Its voided warranties, unibody designs and batteries hidden under layers of fragile components require users to visit authorized retailers or send their phones away for a fix, even as the company pushes its newest, latest and greatest gadget and offers discounts to users willing to hand over their current devices. Scale up the life cycle window slightly and the same logic applies to PCs, servers and networking technology: Enterprises are encouraged to replace rather than repair once technology is more than a few years old.

Companies must also consider budgetary, logistical and support concerns when moving to green security technology. These include:

  • Conversion expense: As noted by Chron, there’s a cost associated with switching to new power sources or adopting new green devices. While this often pays for itself over the long term, up-front spend can be daunting.
  • Varying prices: With a lack of standardization comes a lack of consistent pricing. What are green solutions worth? How much is too much? Companies need to do their research before making the move.
  • Support issues: Niche providers may not be able to offer the same level of support as entrenched tech offerings, meaning businesses must be prepared to meet usability and service challenges.
  • Washing out: Just as some cloud providers are little more than collocation data centers using the cloud moniker to drum up business, some providers “greenwash” their services by using buzzwords without the necessary infrastructure in place. Look for references and reviews and ask hard questions. Washed-out providers typically emerge under scrutiny.

The cloud-based security market is growing, even as green clouds get the go-ahead from many enterprises. The rise of green security technology that both protects corporate assets and limits environmental impact is inevitable. However, it’s an evolving market, meaning companies must exercise caution while both evaluating and adopting the new corporate color.

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Douglas Bonderud

Freelance Writer

A freelance writer for three years, Doug Bonderud is a Western Canadian with expertise in the fields of technology and innovation. In addition to working for the IBM Midsize Insider, The Content Standard and Proteomics programs for Skyword, Doug also writes for companies like Ephricon Web Marketing and sites such as MSDynamicsWorld. Clients are impressed with not only his command of language but the minimal need for editing necessary in his pieces. His ability to create readable, relatable articles from diverse Web content is second to none. He has also written a weekly column for TORWars, a videogaming website; posts about invention and design for InventorSpot.com and general knowledge articles for WiseGeek. From 2010-2012, Doug did copywriting for eCopywriters.com. Doug is currently a municipal police officer, on track to become a fantasy/sci-fi author.