Will 'Green' Data Centers Endure?

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Is green technology set to become a permanent fixture of the IT industry, or is it just a fad -- and one that's getting ready to "jump the shark?"


Probably a little of both.


At the moment, all indications are that enterprises around the globe are taking seriously the concept of the "green" data center. While some of it can be attributed to the desire of IT decision-makers to do what's right by Mother Earth, it's also true that doing what's right goes hand-in-hand with adding cash to the bottom line.


The latest report on green technology from Datamonitor estimates that nearly 20 percent of top enterprises have adopted at least some sort of green technology, the vast majority of which is probably server virtualization. Three quarters of CIOs and IT managers say adopting green business practices, like reducing energy consumption and improving recycling practices for decommissioned hardware, is a top aspect of their data center strategies.


Professional organizations are also stepping up their efforts to devise and help implement green business practices. The Storage Networking Industry Association has teamed up with The Green Grid to develop educational programs and spearhead collaborative development efforts aimed at making the storage side of the house more efficient by reducing the power draw to both run and cool storage systems.


Some enterprises are already coming up with their own creative solutions. For example, a company in Zurich, Switzerland, has figured out how to transfer its excess data center heat to the local public swimming pool. The data center, built in a former nuclear bunker, loses about 2,800 megawatts through heat dissipation each year.


Most enterprises are reducing their environmental impact in less unusual, but no less effective, ways. Marriott International, for example, has swapped out nearly 3,000 PCs for thin clients and has virtualized nearly 40 percent of its servers and 75 percent of its storage. Its server operating costs are expected to drop by about a third.


At the moment, the green push has a lot of momentum because it satisfies a number of varied interests. The front office enjoys the financial benefits, the company gets PR credit for reducing energy consumption and environmental groups gain new allies for their cause.


Of course, the data center will always be the source of pollutants, to some degree. Virtualization and other technologies will reduce energy consumption over the next several years. But once everything is virtualized, those gains will start to level off. When that happens, how long will the powers-that-be recognize the gains that have already been made before they start looking for more?