Sustainable data centers are something companies must look into because “energy costs are punching holes in profits, making this a fight the IT team can’t sit out,” writes J. Nicholas Hoover of InformationWeek.
Hoover offers some ideas to kick start brainstorming green strategies:
1. Look beyond data centers
Powering down PCs is a good way to save energy. Massachusetts’ governor recently mandated that employees at executive branch agencies power down computers when not in use. The policy is expected to save $2 million and 12 million kilowatts a year.
Seek energy efficiency by building new data centers or investing in new technologies. Google recently filed a patent for a “water-based data center,” which uses ocean surface waves to power and cool the facility. Microsoft’s San Antonio data center uses an internally developed power management software called Scry to recycle cooling water. Sensors measuring all power consumption has also been installed.
2. Culture is the biggest barrier to green
Companies need to tackle the conflicts between people’s self-optimizing behavior and green goals. Even though companies have default PC power management settings, Living Life Green says that 70 percent of employees will turn the setting off. So companies should look into locking the settings and having the PC power up automatically before work.
3. Share the data, and the pain
Microsoft now charges business units by the amount of power they use in data centers, instead of the space they take up on the floor. This forces developers to think about the amount of power their applications will use while they are coding them.
4. Don’t forget to measure
Bryant University built an energy-efficient data center, but it made the mistake of not taking good measurements of its energy use before its green shift. Green Grid board member Roger Tipley recommends companies measure total data center energy use every 15 minutes, over the course of a year, to help develop baselines.
5. Don’t expect perfect data
IT impact is a hard number to pin down exactly. There are commonly used metrics such as Power Usage Effectiveness and Data Center Infrastructure Efficiency. But for most companies, the best benchmark will be the past. Kenneth Brill, executive director at Uptime Institute, which developed the concept of PUE, warns that PUE claims of 0.9, 1.2 or 1.6 in marketing materials are probably misleading.
Other ideas that Hoover recommends thinking about include: recycling more, investing in alternative energy, partnering with facilities, considering water use and challenging conventional wisdom.