Data center operators are increasingly concerned about their environmental responsibility. Colocation providers have been promoting their environmental awareness and are boasting about LEED-certified facilities that require less power and have a lower impact on the planet. For example, more new data centers are being located in high desert areas where the cooler climate helps take some of the strain off data center chillers. Corporate data center operators are following their example and greening their operations, looking for benefits beyond just demonstrating environmental responsibility.
Research consistently reveals that making data centers more environmentally friendly saves money and is good for business. Power consumption is the highest operating expense for any data center. IDC recently surveyed 404 enterprise data center managers (a minimum of 1,000 square feet and 100 servers) and found that power and cooling costs continue to take the lion’s share of operating costs at 24 percent. That means if you have a data center operating budget of $1.2 million, $300,000 is going to power and cooling. At the same time, data centers are among the fastest-growing consumers of electricity in the country. The National Resources Defense Council reports that, in 2013, U.S. data centers consumed 91 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, and that should grow to 140 billion kWh by 2020.
More Efficient Operations
There are many reasons that data center managers, and the value-added resellers (VARs) that support them, are working to green the data center. Lowering operating expenses is certainly the biggest reason. Reducing power usage translates into substantial savings in operating overhead.
Consuming more power also means that data centers aren’t operating at peak efficiency. Most data centers are overprovisioned for power and cooling, which means they are wasting energy. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers says that data centers should operate at a maximum of 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit, although temperatures up to 95 degrees are acceptable; most data centers operate at 75 degrees or lower. The specifications for the latest enterprise hardware have them running comfortably at higher temperatures, so maintaining the walk-in equipment cooler is no longer necessary.
Cloud services also are lowering energy costs for data centers. Migration to cloud data storage and cloud computing is eliminating unnecessary data storage and server hardware from the data center. The more applications and services that migrate to the cloud, the less power and cooling are needed. Software as a service is a great way to reduce data center operating costs. Rather than paying to maintain more servers and more data storage, you offload operations to the cloud. The result is not only a savings in hardware costs but in operations and maintenance as well, not to mention the operational benefits from migrating to the cloud.
Self-Powered Data Centers
More data centers aren’t just going green; they are looking to become self-sufficient.
Deloitte surveyed 600 business decision-makers as part of its fifth annual Resources Study and found that 79 percent were looking to reduce energy consumption in order to gain a competitive advantage. Fifty-seven percent also have formal energy-reduction goals, whereas, in 2014, it was only 46 percent. As part of the commitment to reduce power consumption, 55 percent of companies say they are generating some portion of their power on site.
Although the survey was not specific to data centers, many data center managers are adopting their own power generators to promote greater reliability. One data center contractor that builds solar energy and wind power centers said that it found that 84 percent of corporate data executives want renewable energy sources for their data centers. If they control their own power generators using clean energy, then data center managers can manage their own operational reliability.
One of the biggest reasons companies are seeking to green their data centers is because they want to be good corporate citizens. Shareholders, customers, and corporate partners like the idea of doing business with companies that demonstrate environmental responsibility, and making the greatest energy hogs that they own green is a dramatic way of demonstrating concern about climate change.
Any way you look at it, going green is good for business, and greening data centers means you are promoting operations that are more efficient and saving money, as well as resources. Increasingly, the VAR’s role is becoming that of energy consultant. It’s up to the VAR to show customers how to save energy in the data center with more efficient equipment and balancing energy consumption with operations.