Data explosion: The IT department has a long way to go to achieve green

Explosive growth in data center capacity to handle the flood of electronic transactions has the EPA projecting data center energy consumption will nearly double by 2011 from 2006 levels. In addition to elevated carbon footprints, this significant increase in power consumption raises the risk of power failures and limited availability.

03/10/2009



Explosive growth in data center capacity to handle the flood of electronic transactions has the EPA projecting data center energy consumption will nearly double by 2011 from 2006 levels. In addition to elevated carbon footprints, this significant increase in power consumption raises the risk of power failures and limited availability.

In January, Business Performance Management (BPM) Forum conducted a survey of some 275 IT professionals as part of its Think Eco-Logical initiative

“Despite increased awareness, by-and-large IT departments are not very advanced in pushing a green agenda,” says Derek Kober, BPM Forum program director. “Of respondents, 81 percent gave the Internet and e-commerce industry a failing grade. It was surprising that 43 percent do not have a strategic framework in place for setting goals and moving programs forward.”


“Despite increased awareness, by-and-large IT departments are not very advanced in pushing a green agenda.”— Derek Kober, program director, BPM Forum

Reducing power consumption and data center cooling costs are the potential areas for greatest improvement, according to the survey. To that end, three of the top four initiatives for the next year were identified as improving server virtualization (47 percent); server consolidation (45 percent); and server efficiency (39 percent). Only reducing the number of printed documents ranked higher, at 64 percent, as a top sustainability program.

But there are considerable obstacles to making sustained progress. More than 43 percent of survey respondents don’t know who has ownership of corporate programs for sustainability and green initiatives, while 59 percent said their companies devote less than 5 percent of their budgets to such things.

Still, some companies are making significant strides. Yahoo Inc . hired Christina Page to serve as its director of climate and energy strategy. Her initial focus was making a thorough benchmark assessment of the company’s carbon footprint.

According to Page, in an addendum to the BPM Forum survey report, “Yahoo found the majority of its impact is around its data centers, so I have been working [with data center staff] throughout their operations. There is a lot of opportunity in terms of thermal efficiency… data center design, and ambient cooling.”

In fact, Yahoo uses ambient air for cooling nine months of the year. Because it’s a “relatively new practice that some folks are still a little wary of, proving that out was important to us,” says Page. “Increasingly, the big opportunity is taking a holistic approach—working with site operations to find things that will improve our bottom line.”

As a member of the advisory board promoting the Think Eco-Logical campaign, Page is actively developing financial metrics that Internet and e-commerce companies can use to advance green agendas, and tapping into best practice lessons that Yahoo has to share.

The Think Eco-Logical model is designed to combine ecological benefits (Eco) with bottom-line business improvements (Logical). And that’s a model any company can appreciate.









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