As we approach Earth Day, the news and studies related to power consumption and energy waste in the data center are on the rise. We read a study released this week by the BPM Forum and sponsored by BlueArc, a company that makes energy-efficient storage products, that focused on how much more data centers could do to save energy. And next week, energy-efficiency software firm Cassatt is releasing a survey also tied to data centers going green.
Yes, those mammoth rooms of cooled computers that require a lot of air conditioning and power for servers are very inefficient. And as computing becomes ever more ingrained in our society, we’re relying on them to do more stuff. Aside from the big guys such as Sun Microsystems, Dell, HP and Google, most companies don’t even have plans to reduce their power consumption in the data center because they’re too busy worrying about security and reliability. Of those that do have plans, 74 percent of them intend to reduce their consumption by a quarter or less, according to the BPM Forum survey.
What many of these surveys fail to acknowledge is that energy costs are increasing and huge reductions in consumption might be hard to achieve because the overall demand for data is surging. It’s like trying to diet when you’re pregnant. It’s just not going to work.
Much of the coverage related to green data centers also talks about replacing wasteful products with more energy-efficient ones. That’s great if the company is already planning an upgrade, but involves junking a whole lot of equipment otherwise. And is power consumption really worse than e-waste?
So other than stats about who’s not doing anything to solve the problem, there are some things a company can do to reduce waste in existing facilities. (This is not an exhaustive list, however, so feel free to add your suggestions.)
You can start with consolidation. Bigger companies have managed it and have saved on costs and the number of servers deployed. Plus, there are fewer data centers to cool after a successful consolidation.
Another thing you can do is turn off idle machines or employ the power management features found in many software programs. Options for yet-to-be-built data centers include locating them in climates where the air conditioning doesn’t have to run as often to keep servers cool.
While data from the BPM Forum survey shows that 59 percent of executives think about reducing energy efficiency in the data center, 56 percent believe it will save them less than $10,000 a year. Unless you’re one of the 20 percent of users who can save $100,000 or more a year, greening a data center not be as compelling as the equipment vendors want it to be.