The Green IT Perspective on Data Centers, Cloud Computing, and Sustainability

As 2009 draws to a close, I would like to ponder each element in the title of this blog. The information sources are my blog posts and others’. I will talk about data center market trends in this blog and treat the rest of the subjects later.

Regulatory pressure on data centers
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the cap-and-trade bill in June, and the Senate was expected to pass it in the fall. As we know, that did not happen. As we wait for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) to take place, the Obama administration has issued an executive order for all federal buildings to report their GHG reduction goal by the year 2020. Another noteworthy development is EPA’s designation of CO2 as hazardous material. This means that EPA can go after any organizations, including data centers, that emit CO2. These two changes, even without cap-and-trade, could affect the data center market significantly.

Mike Manos of Digital Realty Trust has warned us that regulatory pressure is around the corner. He recently noted that it is not a matter of if but when real regulations will be imposed on data centers’ GHG emissions.

New Trends
Two trends are emerging:

  • outsourced data centers
  • a new market

Because of the credit crunch and the consideration of speed to market, many enterprises do not want to build their own data centers. It is becoming quite complex to construct a data center in this environment of changing power availability/cost and regulations. If your requirement is for 2–5 k sq. ft., it makes sense to outsource your data center to someone whose daily business is to construct, operate, and maintain data centers.

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Solution Brief: Building MPLS+ Managed Services
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In addition, a larger data center tends to be more energy efficient than a smaller one, mainly because of economy of scale. Many colocation and wholesale data center operators have been pushing this point. A large data center consumes a large amount of power and other resources, which makes it a good target for attack, but a large data center that is well run provides IT services very efficiently. To help this argument, we need a metric like useful work per watt, as The Green Grid advocates.

Regarding the development of a new market, currently the only way to measure GHG emissions is by metering and measuring power consumption. Companies that provide metering and measuring technologies and products will do very well. Another thought is that if GHG emissions become an issue, it won’t be long before water and e-waste are considered equally important. This opens up a discussion of sustainability from the IT perspective.

In one of the panel discussions at Tier1 Data Center Transformation Summit, there was a discussion of what enterprises want from data center operations. One such thing is monitoring and recovery. This means that metering and measuring should focus on merging many different kinds of data from several different types of data center equipment, such as network and system management, power consumption, and building management system (BMS). It is hard to tell how much data should be gathered and collected at which interval. Each metering company does this in its own way, and no standards exist yet. This space needs shaking up as the requirements for metering enter the mainstream.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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