NEWPORT, R.I.-As an analyst with Gartner, Dave Cappuccio has been in a lot of data centers.
What Cappuccio sees is distressing. In many of those data centers, he sees inefficiencies in 40 to 50 percent of the operations, and that by doing things a little differently, those companies could save money. He also finds that in many cases, IT administrators choose not to do anything.
"If [a data center is] designed properly, you can do twice the work in half the space," Cappuccio said, speaking June 5 on a panel on energy management during a day-long event here hosted by Schneider Electric, the parent company of American Power Conversion. "There's an amazing level of inefficiency."
Panel members all agreed that buildings of all types-from office buildings and data centers to factories and homes-all are riddled with energy management problems that cost money and dump a lot of carbon into the atmosphere, and that there are steps that can be taken now to remedy some of those issues.
However, they diverged somewhat on what the key challenges were.
Ronald Bowman, executive vice president at Tishman Technologies, said financing is a key issue. For businesses to institute the solutions they need to drive down power consumption and increase efficiencies, they need to find ways to finance them, Bowman said.
However, Andrew Lawrence, an analyst with The 451 Group, disagreed with moderator Aaron Davis, Schneider chief marketing officer, that American businesses are "awareness-rich but action-poor" when it comes to energy management. Education, particularly at the C-level executive level, is crucial, Lawrence said.
Neil Rasmussen, founder of APC and chief innovation officer Schneider's IT business unit, agreed, saying that until businesses see energy efficiency as an issue, they won't do anything to change.
"[To many executives], -inefficient' doesn't mean -broken,' and that's what we need to fix," Rasmussen said. "Once -inefficient' means -broken,' then it will get fixed."
However, it may be that IT administrators are too aware of the issue, said Gartner's Cappuccio.
"They see green as a problem," he said. "They roll their eyes or they see green, as in money. ... They see this as a problem, not an opportunity."
"There are things going on out there that are so silly and so stupid, they're observable to [even] slightly trained people," said Chris Curtis, president and CEO of Schneider's building business and North American operating division.
Paul Hamilton, senior vice president of Schneider's newly founded Energy University, said a key will be getting people to think about energy management as a financial issue, not an ecological one. Businesses can save 30 percent on their power bills simply by doing the things they do better.
What will drive these savings are technologies that enable businesses to meter, monitor and measure their energy usage, Hamilton said.
Automation technologies also will be key drivers of energy efficiencies, particularly as more intelligence is built into them, Curtis said.
Data centers are examples of facilities that can benefit from what's available already, particularly in the areas of virtualization and technologies that enable measurement, Cappuccio said.
However, data center administrators and their counterparts in other buildings and factories need to figure out how they're going to increase efficiencies, because the federal government-particularly now, under the Obama administration-has made green energy a key policy issue, the panelists said.
That will mean federal money flowing into the pipeline, but it also will mean more pressure on companies to comply with regulations. For example, the federal Environmental Protection Agency in May set specifications for servers to meet the organization's Energy Star rating.
"We certainly have an administration that's committed [to green IT]," Schneider's Curtis said. "Can they do it? We'll have to wait and see, but we do have a commitment."