06:15 PM
Art Wittmann
Art Wittmann
Connect Directly

The Cold, Green Facts

Buying energy-efficient technology isn't the only--or even the best--way to cut down on energy consumption in the data center. Rethinking the way you use the technology you already have can make a bigger impact.

Data centers draw a lot of power. That newsy tidbit was one of the conclusions of the Environmental Protection Agency's data center report to Congress, released Aug. 2. While not surprising, the EPA's gross numbers are nonetheless staggering. Data centers used 61 billion kilowatt-hours in 2006, or 1.5% of all power consumed in the United States. The cost: $4.5 billion, or about as much as was spent by 5.8 million average households. Of the total consumption, the feds sucked up about 10% of that power.

What's truly telling is the EPA's forecast of our consumption under different scenarios. If we do nothing, data center power usage will double by 2011. If we all implement what the EPA considers the state of the art, we could lower overall data center power usage to 2001 levels by 2011--a net swing of 90 billion kilowatt hours.


Although the EPA's recommendations were long on generalities (consolidate those servers, etc.) and short on specifics, what's good about them is that they suggest operational reforms, not just adoption of energy-efficient technology. As in our personal lives, we tend to look for technical solutions to operational problems. Sure, switching your quart-a-day Ben & Jerry's habit for a quart a day of Weight Watcher's ice cream might have some health benefit, but nowhere near as much as a little portion control and exercise. So it is with the data center: Buying energy-efficient technology is a fine idea, but you end up much further ahead by rethinking how you use all the technology in the data center you have.

On the downside, the EPA doesn't recommend any actions by Congress. There's an executive order that federal agencies reduce power consumption by a few percentage points each year, but the EPA made no recommendation for financial or tax incentives for private industry. Instead, it recommends recognizing organizations that do well, sort of like the gold stars that your first-grade teacher used. Still, federal recognition of the problem is a positive step; the EPA is working on new Energy Star certifications for a broader range of equipment, including servers and "related product categories," and since the government is a huge customer, manufacturers have a compelling reason to design for that standard.

1 of 5
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Top IT Trends to Watch in Financial Services
IT pros at banks, investment houses, insurance companies, and other financial services organizations are focused on a range of issues, from peer-to-peer lending to cybersecurity to performance, agility, and compliance. It all matters.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on for the week of October 23, 2016. We'll be talking with the editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll