Backsliding on the Green Data Center?


Ask most IT executives about green technology and you'll usually get a response touting their commitment to the cause or the accomplishments they've already made through things like virtualization and consolidation.

But if you were to take a step back and view the industry as a whole, it seems that not much is being done outside of a few high-profile operations here and there.

Part of that is due to the vague concept of being "green," a marketer's dream term if ever there was one.

Take The Green Grid's latest achievement, for example. The organization just published a series of metrics designed to measure an organization's "greenness." The package defines things like Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and Datacenter Infrastructure Efficiency (DCiE) that provide guidance as to whether a given approach really delivers the goods.

We certainly can't fault the group for providing some much-needed leadership for the industry. The problem arises when organizations start touting their numbers out of context. As tech journalist Mark Fontecchio points out in this article, some IT service organizations are publicly boasting their PUE rating as a means to draw customers (less power usage means lower rates). This is despite the fact that many factors go into determining a PUE, such as data loads and outside climate, so you can't always use PUEs from different data centers as a means of comparison.

Other efforts are coming under the spell of "greenwashing." Ecommerce Times reports on the poor performance on the part of western businesses to recycle their e-waste-computers and components that clog landfills and leak hazardous chemicals into the environment. A major culprit has been the outsourcing of IT functions to organizations that tout their recycling but then fail to follow through, primarily because it's too expensive.

All this may cause cynics to throw their hands up in disgust and conclude that the entire effort is a waste of time. But that would be taking the easy way out. And as this survey from The BPM Forum and Rackable Systems points out, nearly every IT professional out there feels that going green should be a priority-they just can't seem to decide what practices are the most ecologically sound. Again, lack of leadership is the limiting factor.

There was bound to be some loss of inertia in the green IT movement due to the dramatic reduction in energy costs in the last six months. At this point, though, it's important to remember that fuel prices could very easily shoot right back up again, if not this year then whenever the economy gets back on all fours. The easy road now would be to push off energy-efficient investments until another crisis hits-but that would be both short-sighted and ultimately very expensive.