Reining in IT Energy Consumption

Michael Vizard


Energy consumption in the enterprise has been a top-of-mind issue of late, but it turns out that about half of most IT organizations don't account for energy costs when formulating their IT budgets.

In a survey of 502 C-level executives conducted by Kelton Research on behalf of the IT services firm Avanade, 53 percent said their organization did not take energy costs into account when developing their IT budgets.

The good news is that energy costs appear to be moving up the IT agenda, with one in four of the respondents saying that energy consumption related to IT is one of their top three most expensive costs on an annual basis.

Steve Fink, director of Avanade's Infrastructure Services Line , says that while a lot of progress is being made in terms of energy consumption related to IT, far too many organizations have no visibility into these costs because the electric bill is paid by a facilities department operating under a separate budget.

Fink says that Avanade has made a practice of educating customers about these costs, which when reduced can result in enough savings to pay for next-generation servers and other modern IT infrastructure components that add massive amounts of additional processing horsepower, while actually reducing the total amount of energy consumed.

Other potential savings, said Fink, include reduced real estate costs and, in some instances, the ability to forestall having to build completely new data centers. Fink doesn't necessarily believe that companies need to converge their IT and facilities departments to achieve these savings, but rather advocates the use of a common set of business case estimator tools across both departments to foster collaboration on cost containment between the two groups.

As a new generation of IT technologies become more widely available, it's pretty clear that the power consumption equation that has hampered IT for the past five years or more is finally changing. And as an added kicker, we might actually also see a reduction in the overall carbon footprint attributable to IT reduced, as well.

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Apr 7, 2010 2:04 PM Tyler Lane Tyler Lane  says:
Mike, I recently presented on a similar topic at AFCOM in Nashville, and think these points are spot-on. In many cases, there is little-to-no visibility into the budgets allocated through facilities to cover electrical costs, and only slightly more understanding of costs that may be specific to IT�s consumption rates. During the presentation, I asked the roughly 50 attendees, most of them data center managers: �How many of you are actively tracking PUE in your center(s)?� The response was roughly 35%. When drilling-in by asking how confident they were in their numbers, after working so hard to attain them, the percentage was halved. It may be that capitalism is in full effect when it comes to energy consumption, relative to the decisions made based on utilization requirements, or even the physical location alone. Recently there have been articles suggesting both Iceland and Greenland as potential locations for new data centers. In either case, the potential benefits are great-- on paper. However, there are many other criteria when considering the location for a data center, such as failover and disaster recovery, local jobs and rates of taxation, political and lobbying efforts included, as well as security considerations. The latter becoming a greater threat, as the interruption of data services would likely be financially devastating. As the amount of data created and being stored continues to grow exponentially, there are certainly many cases to be made in favor of lower energy consumption. But, unless and until there are incentives and directives, much like the financial sector, the �money party� will continue. The recent government initiative �Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA)�, attempts to �Require agencies to reduce consumption by 30%, by 2015.� We�ll have to wait and see if this mandate approach works. Having myself been involved in some rather large scale projects initiated by the FAA and other �unnamed� agencies, it will be just an incredible feat, if accomplished. Converging IT and Facilities, calculating and estimating -- all necessary and, in many cases, ambitious efforts to say the least. However, within many enterprises, this must be a forced union � mandated, and including measurable goals with many milestones along the way. Does this require a �czar?� Possibly. I submit evidence that has struck me as so logical and evident that it belongs fully in the �why didn�t we do that sooner� category. When HP created the position of �Vice President of Design� ( back in 2003, it became immediately clear that the benefits of focusing on design were for far too long overlooked. The cost savings realized since this time, with the continued support of Mark Hurd, have allowed HP to save millions of dollars while simultaneously increasing customer satisfaction through consistent design practices across products. Is it now time for there to be a �Vice President of Energy Consumption� within major corporations? It�s something I would definitely vote for � uncovering simple correlations where there appear to be none. Dig and ye shall find many, many dollars blowing around the air securely contained within data centers. Reply

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