If you’re paying attention to the data center industry, you sometimes see the occasional story about a colocation company touting sound sustainability characteristics of its data center operations.
Big tech companies, including public cloud service providers, have been making massive investments in renewable energy. The most recent examples include Apple’s 130-megawatt solar deal in California, and Amazon Web Services’ 150-megawatt wind power purchase agreement in Indiana.
Global wholesale data center giant Digital Realty said in January it would buy renewable energy credits for new customers anywhere around the world to make their energy consumption 100 percent carbon-neutral for one year free of charge.
Reading stories like that always begs the question: How much do colocation and cloud customers actually care about whether or not the IT gear they use is housed in a green data center -- a data center that’s reasonably easy on the environment?
Data center provider Green House Data, which has sites in Oregon, Wyoming, New York, and New Jersey, cares about this question a lot more than its peers do. Sustainable operations are the way it has chosen to make itself stand out among competitors. It buys Renewable Energy Credits to cover 100 percent of its energy use and optimizes data center design for maximum efficiency (free cooling, hot and cold aisle containment, Energy Star equipment, and so on).
As a company that cares a lot about this question, it regularly poses it to the market, and today, the answer is “a resounding … maybe,” as Green House Data Marketing Specialist Joe Kozlowicz put it in a blog post.
In its most recent study, the company surveyed about 170 IT pros, from sys admins to CTOs, all but two of whom took part in making IT and infrastructure decisions. While the respondents generally agreed that operational cost savings that come with having a green data center make business sense, most IT department’s don’t really look at energy efficiency or sustainability when comparing different service providers.
Most of those surveyed plan to expand or rejigger their infrastructure in some way over the next three years, be it extending infrastructure to the cloud to create a hybrid setup, take more colocation space, build, buy, or lease a data center, expand or migrate entirely to a public cloud, or consolidate data centers. Less than one-third of those respondents said they would choose green data centers but when asked to explain in detail what “green” factors they would consider, their responses illustrated mild commitment.
For 10 percent of respondents, cooling design efficiency was a primary focus in selecting a service provider. Renewable energy and total energy consumption were a primary focus for 7 percent. Three percent really focused on green technology investment and data center PUE (power usage effectiveness).
Those for whom cooling efficiency, green tech investment, renewable energy, total energy consumption, data center PUE, and overall environmental impact were a “minor consideration” ranged from 20 percent to 30 percent.
Environmental impact was a “very important” factor for 27 percent; and total energy consumption was very important for 33 percent. No respondent said overall environmental impact was a primary focus.
In sum, users tend to care more about energy efficiency (as a vehicle to deliver cost savings) than they do about their service providers’ carbon footprint.
Here is the detailed breakdown of the results, courtesy of Green House Data:
- Blue - Not important
- Red - Minor consideration
- Orange - Low priority but important
- Green - Very important
- Purple - Primary focus