Seizing the Opportunity for Data Center Efficiency

We partnered with Microsoft to run key findings from a recent white paper entitled “The IT Energy Efficiency Imperative” as a ten-part series. To read the full series, click here. The white paper can be downloaded here in PDF format.

The importance of embracing IT energy efficiency has never been more urgent than it is today. The integration of IT into almost every facet of business and society is driving exponential demand that will strain many organizations’ finances and IT capabilities to the limit. IT energy efficiency and increased IT resource utilization can offer substantial respite from these challenges and lead to more nimble, competitive organizations.

Opportunities to improve IT energy efficiency are numerous and increasing, but incentives and motivations are sometimes lacking. C-level decision makers should consider the significant cost savings and productivity opportunities that improvements in IT energy efficiency offer, as well as empower their IT departments to aggressively pursue them.

Organizations that wish to ensure that their IT capabilities are not constrained over the long term should begin the transition to operating IT as a utility, leveraging a mixture of private and public cloud technologies. Doing so could require changing how IT is funded and operated within the organization.

Business units that are used to having extreme levels of resiliency for their applications should evaluate their perspective on what is truly necessary, and whether the alternative represents better value. Application developers who traditionally design applications assuming unlimited IT resources will need to ensure that their applications can scale dynamically with load and respond to constraints. Applications that are easier to manage to a sensible Service Level Agreement will likely have better performance and be more economical and reliable than those designed and operated without regard for energy efficiency or resource utilization.

The imperative for embracing IT energy efficiency extends far beyond the immediate needs or concerns of any individual organization. More effectively utilizing IT equipment can significantly reduce the growing volume of unrecycled e-waste ending up in developing countries, with its attendant environmental and health risks.

Regulations on pollution from traditional sources of electricity are already increasing energy costs for data center operators in certain regions, and it may be simply a matter of time before the effects are felt by nearly every data center operator. While IT energy efficiency is a critical endeavor, operators of data centers powered primarily by environmentally harmful fuels may want to consider working with their electricity suppliers to source pollution-free renewable energy, if available, or investigate other instruments such as offsets that mitigate their consumption of pollution-based electricity sources.

Similarly, scarce water supplies are likely to threaten the cooling capabilities of many data centers in the future. Like electricity, increased costs and regulations on water, e-waste, and other raw materials will substantially impact the bottom line of many data centers over time.

Embracing IT energy efficiency and improving utilization may be the only ways to ensure the viability of many IT operations.

Some people have expressed concern that advances in IT energy efficiency may, paradoxically, increase the environmental footprint of IT services.  This is sometimes known as the Jevons Paradox, named after the British economist, William Stanley Jevons who is credited with having first articulated this notion back in 1865, in reference to the use of coal powered machinery. As the cost of computation, data storage, and network  bandwidth drops through performance and energy efficiency  improvements, IT services and products might become even more widely used than already projected.

However, if these more powerful and efficient computers are used effectively, it is feasible that much of the additional demand for IT services could be satisfied without a dramatic increase in the installed base of servers and data centers. The opportunity and the imperative are clear. The only question is whether organizations will embrace IT energy efficiency and reap the rewards before it’s too late. So, will you?

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