Still Plenty of Green Left in the Data Center

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If the greening of the data center has indeed "jumped the shark" as some industry watchers claim, that could prove to be a serious detriment to enterprise operations going forward.


In times of the relatively low energy costs we're experiencing now, it's only natural for attention to shift away from power efficiency and more toward boosting capabilities to meet growing data demands-even if those capabilities come at the expense of increased power consumption.


But according to a new study by Gartner, that kind of short-term thinking could come back to bite you relatively quickly. The company predicts that major operational factors such as power, cooling and space are set to climb again in 2010 as the economy pulls itself out of recession and demand picks up again. And analysts make the reasonable argument that the time to implement the next phase of energy-saving measures is now while the costs of implementation are still relatively low. By this time next year, energy prices are likely to be back on the rise, along with the technology and the expertise to keep consumption at bay.


Even if you've already implemented virtualization, network consolidation and many of the other green technologies that have come through the channel in the past few years, most organizations still should be able to squeeze a fair amount of savings from their legacy infrastructures, even while earning green kudos for reducing emissions. IDC estimates that a 55 percent reduction in carbon output translates into a 35 percent cost reduction per user.


Clearly, the greatest efficiencies will be had in the largest data centers, but even moderate-sized organizations can see substantial benefits, according to Info-Tech. The company recently released a Top 10 list of energy-saving tips for "the larger end of the small and mid-sized enterprise demographic," which typically don't have a dedicated data center but rather a few racks of equipment in the back office. Only at the truly small operation, those with maybe a single server feeding only a handful of PCs, is power consumption so minimal that efficiency measures are not really cost-effective.


If the green data center movement is indeed losing steam, perhaps it's time to kick the efficiency message up a notch. Instead of simply lessening consumption, how about returning energy back to the grid-converting IT equipment from a cost center to a revenue-generator? That's one of the goals of Locust Storage, which recently came out with a hybrid HDD/SSD storage system that, conceivably, could act as a UPS to funnel excess power back out. All that would be needed is a complementary format under the Power over Ethernet (PoE) framework to enable two-way flows of energy.


For the cynical among us, it would be easy to note the lack of dramatic shifts in greenhouse gases or energy consumption and conclude that the latest movement toward greater data center efficiency is just a lot of, well, hot air. But larger environmental concerns aside, if even a modest amount of virtualization or server-room redesign can produce, say, a 10 percent reduction in energy consumption, then why on Earth wouldn't it make sense to build energy factors into both capital and operational budgets?


Just think of what a 50 percent reduction or more do to your bottom line.