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Top Five Trends for Green Data Centers in 2011

Kathryn Siranosian | Tuesday January 18th, 2011 | 4 Comments

Last year, Triple Pundit took an in-depth look at how companies are greening their data centers.

Now, it’s time for us to revisit that issue and ask, “What’s new?”

Recently, I spoke with Tate Cantrell, CTO of Verne Global, and he filled me in on how he sees the data center industry progressing towards greater sustainability. Looking ahead to the new year, Cantrell identified a few key developments, including these:

Top Five Trends for Green Data Centers in 2011:

1. Continued emphasis on efficiency –with a twist. Sure, the economy is beginning to show signs of life, but corporate budgets are still tight. Companies want to save money, and there’s no doubt that efficient data centers are the most economical data centers. But in 2011, look for a new, more holistic approach to efficiency.  Rather than focusing solely power usage effectiveness (PUE), CIOs are broadening their perspective to integrate data center functions into more comprehensive business objectives.  “Efficiency is not specific only to power use,” Cantrell explained. “Cost savings and efficiencies are both optimized when data center operations are integrated with other business processes.”


2. Improving business flow through virtualization and cloud computing.
Even though digital data is now fundamental to virtually every business function, companies no longer have to be tethered to data centers on site, or even to those “in the neighborhood.” Advances in virtualization and cloud computing mean that companies can now consider a wide range of options to meet their data center needs. For example, many companies are outsourcing certain application in order to meet budget and environmental targets. Once again, Cantrell stressed that data center management must be incorporated into overall business goals.

3. Modularity. Companies that are building data centers are learning to take a modular approach, adding individual components and applications as needed. Not only does modularity decrease capital outlay and increase flexibility, it also helps prevent inefficiencies and overbuild.

4. Innovative design and design integration. Watch for technology that will continue to improve automation, enhance flexibility, and further develop power use monitoring –all of which will lower GHG emissions and help data centers run more efficiently.

5. Continued evolution of certification and regulation. Although groups like the Green Grid have developed useful metrics to help guide efficiencies, the data center industry, as a whole, is significantly behind other industries with regard to certification and regulation. But, Cantrell feels that this year, there will be progress on both the certification and regulation fronts. Just last month, the British Computer Society launched a new certification, the Certified Energy Efficiency Datacenter Award (CEEDA), designed to provide a LEED-like sustainability rating for European data centers. Likewise, he expects more movement towards regulation (at both the state and federal levels). Eventually, regulation will cover several areas, including: carbon legislation, security, workplace safety and zoning. “Innovation around data centers has happened fast, and compared to other business-critical industries like the airlines or the FDA, the data center industry is practically unregulated. But, regulation is going to catch up,” Cantrell says.

How can a CIO successfully navigate this evolving data center landscape? For Cantrell, the answer boils down to one word: relationships. Companies need to improve their vendor network and build partnerships to help achieve sustainability objectives.

“Data center managers must thoroughly understand the business they’re supporting, and they have to bring vendors into the process in order to create success,” Cantrell concludes. “The hedge of regulations will keep things efficient, but data center managers now have to think broader, about where the power being used is generated and how it is generated.”


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  1. January 18, 2011 at 4:00 am PDT | Nick Aster writes:

    What about location? I’ve always wondered why there were large data centers in places like phoenix. The cooling bill in the summer there must be insane. I wonder why there isn’t much of a trend toward putting data centers somewhere like Duluth – minimal summer cooling could be accomplished by cold lake water and in the winter you’d hardly have a bill at all!

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    • January 18, 2011 at 8:49 am PDT | Sheila Samuelson writes:

      Nick, I think you’re absolutely right. In addition to tax incentives and low electricity costs, I believe this is why companies like Google operate data centers in Iowa and other places that don’t immediately come to mind when you think of tech.

      At the Heartland GreenUp IT Conference last spring (2010), HP’s CIO talked up their new Wynyard, UK data center that makes use of the wind coming off the North Sea to naturally cool the facility year round (brilliant!), as well as providing 10% of the center’s reduced electricity demand. (http://www.triplepundit.com/2010/05/green-data-center-dell-greenup-it/)

      Last year ACT’s Iowa City headquarters became the first data center to earn LEED Platinum certification, and is a great example of many of Kathryn’s points above: modularity, integrating data center functions to improve overall efficiency, design innovations that provide security even in extreme weather events like tornados, continuous improvement, etc.

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    • September 21, 2011 at 5:31 am PDT | Rich L. writes:

      Because that is where the fiber backbone is to get the connectivity out to the world. Sure you can build a data center in North Dakota to save on cooling, but the cost to bring fiber to the site will outweigh the cost savings on cooling.

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  2. January 18, 2011 at 21:22 pm PDT | Bob Landstrom writes:

    Great list, Kathryn.

    I think it’s important too to have the PUE perspective in the proper focus. I have a piece elaborating on this point at http://bit.ly/euPcpQ if you’re interested.

    Thanks.

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