Chris Crosby's presentation at Friday's DataCenterDynamics Washington conference was titled "A Common Sense Guide for Planning and Designing A 'Green' Datacenter."
"We put 'green' in quotes because it's so abused these days," said Crosby, the senior VP of technical serviecs for Digital Realty Trust. "We think it makes sense because it can help you save money. It's not so much about reducing power, but using only what you need and wasting as little as possible. What you used to call good business practice, many people now called green. While the hype is out there, this gets down to saving you money."
The business benefit of energy-efficient data centers was a key theme at last Friday's even at the Hyatt Regency in Bethesda, Md., which drew a crowd of more than 350 data center professionals, including many from government agencies. While a "green data center" may mean different things to different people, virtually all attendees were interested in discussing practical strategies to manage energy issues in their data center, especially power and cooling.
That included keynote speakers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy, who discussed the federal government's initiatives to help create standards for energy efficiency in the data center. They said data center operators need to understand the economic imperative - that saving energy is saving money.
"What this does is stave off the need to build another data center," said Andrew Fanara of the EPA's Energy Star program. "Efficiency can help you put off the day when you go in the CFO's office and tell him you need $30 million to $100 million for a new data center. He doesn't want to hear that."
The EPA is likely to introduce an Energy Star program for servers and other data center equipment, and is also working on a metric that will measure the overall energy efficiency of data center facilities. Fanara said government agencies will also need to improve the energy performance of their own data centers. "The federal sector has to eat its own cooking with respect to energy production," he said.
Several attendees who said they represented a large federal agency said that progress on energy efficiency is extremely difficult given their budget restraints. While virtualization and consolidation can save money over time, they noted, these approaches also require a significant up-front investment of time and money.
That's one reason the feds are focusing on big gains over the long haul. Paul Scheihing, the technology manager for the U.S. Department of Energy's Industrial Technologies Program, looked eight years down the road in assessing the impact of the new initiatives.
"We believe, conservatively, that we could save 20 billion kilowatts by 2015," said Scheihing. "These are some big numbers. It's the equivalent of taking 675,000 cars off the road. This is really about the optimal use of capital. You use stingier equipment and get more for less."
While there may be hype around green data centers, Fanara predicted that the issue will have staying power. "There is a lot of financial risk associated with not doing anything and hoping that this will all blow over," said Fanara. "I wouldn't bet on it."