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State of the Green Data Center 2008

Green data centers continues to be a priority for Corporate America, but the effort is being complicated by a lack of standards and information-sharing.

Operating energy-efficient "green" data centers continues to be a priority for Corporate America, but the effort is being complicated by a lack of standards and information-sharing. Industry groups are making progress on establishing best practices, but end users are struggling with the complexity and scope of the challenges in their facilities. With no magic technology solutions in sight, progress on data center energy efficiency has been uneven and closely tied to corporate commitment.

That's a high-level view of the State of the Green Data Center 2008, based on new studies and interviews with leading players in the sector. As Earth Day focuses attention on the greening of corporate America, awareness of the problem is racing ahead of the implementation of solutions.

Survey Shows Slippage

Fifty one percent of companies have a green data center strategy, according to new research from Digital Realty Trust (DLR). Here's the issue: that number is down from 55 percent in Digital's 2007 study. The dip indicates that corporate adoption of green data center strategies may have stalled.

"When we conducted our first green data center study last year, respondents expressed concern about the lack of industry standards for green data centers," said Jim Smith, Vice President of Engineering at Digital Realty Trust. "The impact of that concern is very evident in this year's survey. Companies are looking for leadership and clarity on how to define a green data center, how to design their green data center plans, and how to put them into action."

"In the past, the question may have been how to convince companies of the value of green data centers. The good news is that is no longer a problem," Smith said. "Companies are convinced. The challenge is that the data center industry needs to step up and show the way with clear standards."

A second survey on Green IT from Business Performance Management (BPM) Forum reinforced those findings. The "lack of policies to guide the process" was cited as the top reason companies haven't implemented green IT initiatives, followed by "too much time and resources required to push the green agenda" and "too busy to formalize a program." The cost of infrastructure improvements ranked fourth overall, suggesting that time is a bigger issue than money for many data center managers.

Hopes for "silver bullet" technology solution to the data center energy crisis have faded. After convening the industry's leading thinkers at its Data Center Charrette last fall, The Uptime Institute identified many incremental improvements in data center cooling and energy efficiency, but couldn't reach a consensus on big-ticket gains.

This has reinforced the focus on best practices as the clearest path to improvement. The standard bearer in this effort has been The Green Grid, an industry consortium whose work has been lauded by participants, but been criticized for restricting access to key findings to paid members.

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