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The greening of the data centre

The greening of the data centre

There is now a considerable amount of buzz about the environmental impact of ICT

It seems that almost all leading organisations in the IT arena are clamouring to establish their green and environmentally friendly credentials -- especially the purchasing of IT products.

There is now a significant amount of buzz about the greening of IT. Vendors are marketing their products as "green" solutions, environmental issues are being brought to light in the media, and enterprises are running into real problems in terms of power and cooling capacity for their data centres.

The increasing power and cooling requirements of today's data centres put them under the microscope of the Green IT movement. Power-hungry virtualisation techniques aggravate cooling challenges. Businesses of all types have also started realising the hazardous impact of electronic waste (e-waste) -- proper disposal and recycling of e-waste is gaining increasing importance in IT departments today.

IT vendors, realising that the green movement also presents opportunities, are coming together in green alliances. Intel, Google, Dell, EDS, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lenovo, Microsoft, and others have launched the Climate Savers Computing Initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from PCs and servers. A similar consortium, the Green Grid, focuses mainly on data centres and includes among its members AMD, VMWare, Microsoft, HP, and Intel.

Emerson Network Power is responding to the looming data centre crises in Australia by expanding its direct services business to deal with the sharp increase in demand for data centre infrastructure services. Ben Graham, Emerson's director of services, said that the problem we're facing today, as an industry, is the unprecedented demand for more computing power and that means smaller, more compact, and much higher-density designs like blade servers. "These devices use up more power and consequently push out an exponentially greater amount of heat that needs to be rejected from the data centre". Graham said Emerson is expanding its services business in Australia and New Zealand in direct response to growing customer demand for one-stop suppliers for large centres and corporate premises.

A recent survey by the Uptime Institute indicated that data centre cooling and power consumption costs are leading data centres into economic crises! There is no doubt that green computing by its nature will bring about power and cooling savings that businesses are crying out for. However, one factor about 'green' has often been overlooked --how do you actually measure these power and cooling benefits? Raratan found that nine out of 10 organisations are in the dark about power consumption in data centres, not to mention capacity planning and efficiency improvements. A major barrier is the difficulty of collecting data on the energy consumption of individual components according to Gary Hull, regional director of Raratan A/NZ.

According to a recent survey from Forrester Research, green IT consulting could balloon to a $US4.8 billion industry within the next five years. As IT departments face increasing pressure to cut energy costs and environmental impacts, many are turning to professional service providers for guidance on equipment procurement, operation, and disposal, as well as processes that help optimise efficiency. As well as data centre specialists like IBM and Intel, corporate strategy consultants such as Accenture and Deloitte are well positioned to capitalise on these emerging trends, according to a recent report.

Today's data centres are in a state of chaos according to research from analyst firm Quocirca. Analyst Dennis Szubert noted that a recent survey of senior IT professionals revealed that 28 per cent could not say how many servers they were running, and 30 per cent had no idea how many devices were connected to their networks.

There were also some startling results concerning data centre power and space: when Quocirca asked for forecasts of when their data centres would run out of space and power, eight per cent said they had no idea!

Len Rust is publisher of The Rust Report


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