Greening Your Data Center � You May Have No Choice

The writing has been on the wall for some time.

Electricity use in data centers is skyrocketing, sending corporate energy bills through the roof, creating environmental concerns and generating negative publicity for large corporations.

Because IT budgets are limited and because governments in Europe and the United States may soon impose carbon taxes on wasteful data centers, something’s got to give. Data centers are going to have to “go green.”

“There’s no doubt that in the short term this problem is a financial one, but behind that there is the need of organizations to be seen to be green.”

—Rakesh Kumar, Gartner.

It’s not as if no one saw this coming. The aggregate electricity use for servers actually doubled between 2000 and 2005, both in the U.S. and around the world as a whole, according to research conducted by Jonathan Koomey, a consulting professor at Stanford University.

In the U.S. alone, servers in data centers accounted for 0.6 percent of total electricity usage in 2005. But that’s only half the story. When you include the energy needed to get rid of the heat generated by these servers that figure doubles, so these data centers are responsible for about 1.2 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption, equivalent to the output of about five 1000MW power stations, and costing $2.7 billion — about the gross national product of an entire country like Zambia or Nepal.

Unless data centers go green, costs energy costs could soon spiral out of control, according to Rakesh Kumar, a vice president at Gartner. In a report titled “Why ‘Going Green’ Will Become Essential for Data Centers” he says that because space is limited, many organizations are deploying high-density systems that require considerably more power and cooling than last generation hardware.

Add to that the rising global energy prices, and the proportion of IT budgets spent on energy could easily rise from 5 percent to 15 percent in five years. The mooted introduction of carbon taxes would make this proportion even higher. “When people look at the amount of energy being consumed and model energy prices, and think about risk management and energy supply, they should begin to get worried,” Kumar said.

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