Firms Making Their Own ‘Green’ Standards

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North American companies want energy-efficient data centers, but are struggling to define what “green” really means, and often developing their own metrics and standards. That’s the conclusion of a Digital Realty Trust (DRL) survey of enterprise data center users, which found strong commitment to energy efficiency but no clear standard emerging to assess and track these green initiatives.

“The findings provide compelling evidence that green initiatives will play a significant, long-term role in data center planning and design,” said Chris Crosby, Senior Vice President of Digital Realty Trust. “Our goal for this survey was to determine whether the greening of the data center is a passing fad or represents the emergence of a deeper trend in technology that will permeate the industry for years to come.”

Fifty five percent of companies polled said they have already established a detailed green data center strategy, while more than 80 percent said their strategy addresses facility design and operations in addition to computers and servers. The facility-level focus reflects a comprehensive approach to green data center initiatives, according to Digital Realty. In addition, more than 60 percent of companies said that having a green data center strategy will be an important factor in their vendor selections over the next 24 months, indicating that IT vendors and data center providers will need to be green to compete.


But the survey also found that 73 percent of companies said there’s no clear industry standard that defines a “green data center.” In the absence of a universal standard, companies have created their own green data center plan, filling that standards void themselves with self-defined green initiatives rather than waiting for industry-wide standards to be fully defined.

“These data points indicate that green, energy-efficient datacenter trends have been adopted more quickly and more deeply than previously believed,” said Jim Smith, Vice President of Engineering for Digital Realty Trust, who said the lack of codified operational standards for green data centers “is clearly an area where more work needs to be done, and will be a key factor in enabling companies to extend their green initiatives and establish green standards for their technology vendors and datacenter partners.”

“Although a single codified standard does not yet exist, we believe that participation in The Green Grid and in LEED certification are key best practices for implementing a green datacenter strategy,” said Smith. “We actively participate in The Green Grid and follow LEED protocols, and they provide valuable operational guidelines for planning, designing and operating corporate datacenters that are energy efficient.”

The challenge for the industry was summarized in Digital’s white paper that accompanies the survey: “Although much remains to be worked out and developed over the coming months in terms of definitions and standards, the data center user community has embraced this concept and will want to see more from its existing and potential datacenter providers and partners.”

Digital Realty surveyed more than 100 decision-makers at North America corporations with revenues of at least $1 billion and/or a size of at least 5000+ employees. The company will host a webinar on Monday, Sept. 10 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time that will analyze the results of this survey in greater detail.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.