The Color of Money

Opinion: CEOs will be easier to persuade to go green if it saves money.

The "green" in the green data center equation should start with the color of money and end at an environmental goal. Data centers are due for a major reworking during the next five years, and youd be best off starting with a financial model and reaching your environmental goals as a bonus.

Data centers in the United States especially will need a reworking. Most data centers were designed for a time of much lower watt-per-square-foot heat output than the current mode of high-density blade products. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that data centers used 61 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2006. That figure translates to 1.6 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption and $4.5 billion in power costs.

By 2011, the national energy consumption by data centers is expected to nearly double, and Gartner recently estimated that by that date more than 70 percent of U.S. enterprise data centers will face disruptions related to energy consumption, floor space and/or costs.


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Gartner analyst Rakesh Kumar contends that most legacy data centers were built to a design specification of about 150 watts per square foot, which is far below the current design needs of about 300 watts per square foot and distant from the expected 600 watts data centers will need by 2011.

Thats the bad news. The good news is you have more options than when the data center was built 10 years ago. Heres a shortlist:

• If you are going to build new, consider a lights-out, limited-access data center housed in a lower, secure part of an office building. The days of the raised-floor, glass fishbowl on the same floor as office workers just doesnt make sense in this era of high-capacity networks.

• Include virtualization in your equation. Computer virtualization promises to deliver increased server usage, which can translate into fewer (albeit hotter) servers doing more work. Virtualization is no cure-all, with patching and security as necessary as ever, but if you are not planning for a server, data and storage virtualized environment, your rebuilding of the physical data center will be for naught.

• Hosting and outsourcing need to be part of your infrastructure considerations. A high-speed data connection to your applications sitting on servers running on racks you rent by the year makes sense if compliance, security and access questions are correctly answered.

All those data center considerations add up to a significant capital investment.

But the result will be a computing infrastructure that can meet your IT needs and make the best use of the electrical power you buy—and yield a green environmental benefit.


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