Going Green in the Data Center

The term “Green IT” summons two flights of thought: greenback savings and back to green environmental impact. But make no mistake, the pecking order is clear: “This is about doing what is right for the business, and the benefit to the environment, that is an added bonus,” said Jody Cefola, chief marketing officer at IBM Global Technology Services, Site and Facilities Services.

Lest you think IBM is taking a cold hearted stance on global warming, consider that tightly belted budgets have no room for warm and fuzzy frills. In the shrinking world of IT resources, from staff to cash, there is little room for a costly bout of conscience. Today, it is most certainly survival of the fittest and if green doesn’t fit, it won’t survive.

But that’s the thing about going green—because there is a real business case for its benefits this trend will quickly become an Evergreen issue.

Paul Strong, distinguished research scientist at virtual commerce giant eBay, said building more energy efficient infrastructure components and being able to power and cool them efficiently will not only remain important but “will almost certainly grow in importance.” This fact, driven home by rocketing fuel costs, is driving innovation and change in areas ranging from power conversion and transmission, to data center layout and cooling, to data center location, to building and structure design and facilities.

But, according to Strong, to truly be “green” requires that businesses are also able to maximize their efficiency in terms of delivering their services using the absolute minimum resources required; which ultimately means divesting much of the physical IT infrastructure as it is known today. Think cloud or grid computing, outsourcing IT and software as a service (SaaS).

“To be truly effective one has to be able to link everything together and understand how everything contributes to value and cost,” he said.

“Everything” also includes taking technology outside the data center green, as well. John Ragsdale, vice president of Research at the Service & Support Professionals Association (SSPA), the largest and most influential industry trade group for technology service and support professionals, said the categories the association is closely looking at now are “virtual support centers such as home-based employees, field service avoidance, and field service optimization as each relates to gas consumption, emissions and contributions to a corporation’s carbon footprint.”

As these issues are universal, Bill Kosik, energy and sustainability leader, EYP Mission Critical Facilities at HP, said the business case for green could just as easily include increasing market share by taking an aggressive stance on minimizing the impact on the environment as it could include tactical upgrades to optimize energy use.

“The big unknown is how future regulatory involvement will impact business technology,” warns Kosik. “Since data centers will demand the lion’s share of the electricity, and produce the corresponding CO2 emissions, there is a likely scenario of carbon emission caps that corporations will need to adhere to, making upgrades in energy efficiency now payoff big later if carbon caps are put in place.”

There is also a more immediate, albeit often overlooked, payoff to going green. “Selling carbon credits for corporations that are very efficient is also another way to tie green initiatives into a business case,” said Kosik.

A Penny Saved …

This can be an innovative way for IT to increase its own budget. “In some cases these initiatives may be a source of funding for IT investments,” said Wendy Perilli, director of SMB Product Marketing at VMware.