Is The “Green” Data Center The Next Generation Data Center?

Dougwashburn Yes, but the shade of green will vary. While it’s clear that the next generation data center will be an energy efficient data center, incorporating other green data center features — from reduced water usage, to sustainable site planning, to sourcing IT gear manufactured in a more eco-responsible fashion — are not likely to happen at the same pace.

Why? Reduced energy consumption in the data center offers tangible and immediate environmental and economic savings, but also goes hand-in-hand with alleviating out of space and out of power concerns — challenges, that for now, trump purely green motivations.

At last week’s annual Next Generation Data Center Conference held in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to discuss the role of “green” in the data center by moderating a panel on the topic of “Greening of the Data Center — Practical Steps That Can Be Implemented Today With Real World Savings.” The panel consisted of major industry hitters — including Jack Pouchet of Emerson Power Network, Joe Prisco of IBM, Michael Patterson of Intel, Christian Belady of Microsoft, and John Pflueger of Dell — with all panelists having a stake in enacting green and or energy efficiency strategies within their organizations. Here are some key takeaways from the session:

Breakdown artificial barriers. Don’t let artificial barriers or bad habits inhibit you from greening your data center — such as “meat locker” temperatures in the cold aisle temperatures, avoiding the use and extent of virtualization, or low server utilization thresholds.

  • Measure first, green second. Measure your data center’s energy consumption before enacting any green or energy efficient projects. One hundred percent accuracy isn’t required — walking the floor with a pencil and clipboard can give you a rough estimate that will help you prioritize where to start and then report benefits over time. I will be hosting a teleconference in October to discuss how to do this.
  • Green benefits extend beyond energy cost savings. The benefits of the green data center extend beyond just saving some coin. If you’re experiencing out of space and out of power concerns in the data center, consolidation and virtualization can increase available floor space while reducing energy consumption simultaneously. This will help you continue to the meet increasing needs of the business for IT services and defer the costs of building a new data center.
  • The green data center is “resource” efficient, not just energy efficient. Our panelists were quick to point out that Green IT extends far beyond just reducing IT energy consumption, and therefore, the green data center is more than just an energy efficient data center. While most agreed that this is where most firms are starting, data centers also need to be “resource” efficient — such as reducing water consumption, incorporating sustainable building practices into new construction, and sourcing IT gear manufactured in a more eco-responsible fashion. Examples of this include Citigroup’s water management techniques and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shields use of recycled building materials.

As a parting thought, the best way to green your data center is to make the most out of what you have versus building a new one. With that in mind, don’t wait to incorporate green features into your data center today. For example, if your goal is to reduce energy consumption, simple steps — from raising the temperate in your cold aisles and installing blocking plates improve air flow, to energy efficient power supplies, and improving utilization with virtualization — can be done today with minimal to no investment.

By Doug Washburn

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