Data center operators at various large companies talked at the GreenNet conference today in San Francisco about how they’re making their data centers more energy efficient. It boils down to metrics, utilization and awareness. But first they outlined the problem: Kenneth Brill, executive director of the Uptime Institute, explains how computers are primarily in these vast over air-conditioned rooms filled with computers running all the time, blowing hot air. Historically, the computer industry never paid attention to the power consumption of its servers and data centers, but now that is changing.
Albert Esser, V-P at Dell, trumpeted the computer giant’s ability to become carbon-neutral and explained that it’s difficult to become green, but it will improve your bottom line by saving on costs. Esser’s focus was on increasing utilization to lower electricity demand. He said newer facilities are 40 percent more efficient but if a company focuses on its utilization of servers, they can increase efficiency by more than 200 percent. Rich Lechner, V-P of Energy and Environment at IBM, echoed the focus on utilization, both internally and also with IBM customers, for which IBM builds data centers. He also took it a step further and encouraged virtualizaiton of networking, storage and desktops.
Better utilization of IT assets and end devices are also an important component of energy consumption that IT can manage, stressed the panelists. Robert Aldrich, senior manager and principle of energy-efficient solutions at Cisco, said the networking company spent $150 million last year on power and hopes to cut that by 20 percent in part through better management of end devices.
Aside from utilization, panelists debated the role that renewables should play in a data center. Christina Page, director climate and energy strategy at Yahoo, touted free air cooling as a way to reduce costs associated with data centers and said companies should focus more on reduction in energy demand rather than using clean power. Esser disagreed, pointing out that as a consumer of several megawatts of power, data center operators can galvanize a local utility to switch to renewables by acting as a guaranteed customer for it.