Read part 1: Microsoft is among those who see a need for more leadership and more openness. At Data Center World, Microsoft’s Mike Manos said his company would be sharing more information about its energy efficiency efforts, rather than hoarding innovation for “competitive advantage” (a phrase sometimes identified with Microsoft’s rival Google, which is known for secrecy surrounding its data center operations).
“As an industry we haven’t gotten together to resolve these problems,” Manos said in his DCW keynote. “The problem is really about execution. We’ve been talking about measuring and monitoring for years now. We really need to start pulling together to solve this. Measurement is critical because every facility is a unique ecosystem. Building a program for monitoring and measuring your facility doesn’t happen overnight.”
It’s said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But the complexity of the modern data center, and the variety of strategies, products and tools being marketed for green data centers seems to have prompted an “analysis paralysis” among some end users.
“I think one of the issues is that people think it’s a complicated thing,” said Christian Belady of Microsoft. “The reality is, Microsoft didn’t start with a million sensors. What you see is an evolution.”
The Retrofit Opportunity
Data center developers like Digital Realty, 365 Main and Power Loft are focusing on building LEED-certified green data centers, to offer tenants state-of-the-art energy efficiency. But the biggest challenge is in the retrofit market, as many data center operators seek to wring better performance out of older facilities. The approach typically involves a combination of best practices, instrumentation, and upgrades to more efficient hardware.
The breadth of issues involved in a retrofit has led to consolidation in the data center services industry, with equipment vendors acquiring consultants and software companies in an effort to provide one-stop shopping for clients. Examples include HP’s acquisitions of Opsware and EYP Mission Critical Facilities, and Emerson’s recent purchase of Aperture.
The EPA’s launch of Energy Star standards for servers, which is expected later this year, will provide end users with a new tool to compare vendors and assess the efficiency of new products. The EPA has also recently launched a National Data Center Energy Efficiency Program featuring voluntary sharing of energy usage data, which EPA hopes will lead to the development of an Energy Star rating for data center infrastructure.
It’s not clear when the Energy Star data center rating will arrive. Will the EPA’s leadership bring more progress on energy efficiency in the data center industry? Many believe that it can. But it’s safe to predict that green data centers will still be a hot topic on Earth Day 2009.