Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
1/31/2008
01:55 PM
Cora Nucci
Cora Nucci
Commentary
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Dirty, Sexy Data Centers

Solar and wind technologies are as popular as Tom Brady and his sparkling choppers. Everybody wants some. Sadly, the green initiatives investors should be pushing for even harder are as glamorous as snaggle-toothed Nanny McPhee: data center efficiencies.

Solar and wind technologies are as popular as Tom Brady and his sparkling choppers. Everybody wants some. Sadly, the green initiatives investors should be pushing for even harder are as glamorous as snaggle-toothed Nanny McPhee: data center efficiencies.Efficiency in the data center is "the ultimate value proposition," said Rockwell Bonecutter, managing partner for the Accenture Data Center Technology and Operations Practice in America. "Corporations can now do the right thing with their data centers both for the environment and for their shareholders," in a statement.

But before running out to hire a squad of experts to engineer a sexy energy-efficiency makeover, businesses can take steps on their own to reduce energy consumption.

The first place to look is the data center, where energy consumption is skyrocketing. It has doubled over the last five years, and data centers now consume as much power annually as generated by five power plants, according to Accenture. As Paris Hilton would put it, "that's hot."

To reduce energy usage it's helpful to know exactly how much energy is being consumed. To help track usage, Accenture is testing a Green Data Center Calculator in its labs. A company rep did not say when it will be launched publicly.

The company also is suggesting these actions to create data center efficiencies:

  • Use more efficient processors. Improvements in chip manufacturing have improved processing power as much as three to four times while cutting out as much as 75% of power and cooling costs. This takes on even greater importance when considering that for every kilowatt of energy consumed by a server, approximately another kilowatt is needed to cool it.
  • Adopt virtualization technology. Consolidate servers to significantly reduce power costs. Some utility companies are beginning to give rebates for each server companies eliminate through virtualization.
  • Put in a more efficient cooling system and reconfigure data center equipment to optimize air flow and eliminate hot spots.

Just shifting energy use away from peak time can cut a data center's electric bill. California-based 365 Main said it saved $54,000 in electricity costs last year -- most of it by adjusting its monthly test schedules away from peak time.

Until data centers start running on wind and solar, life among the server racks is just not going to be that glamorous. Unless Tom Brady swaps his pads for a BlackBerry and goes into IT.

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