Who Cares About a Green Data Center?

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Who cares about a green data center?

Really?  Not in the negative sense as in, “Who the heck cares about a green data center?” but in the simple sense of, “Who is it exactly that cares about reducing power consumption in the data center?” 

This question was recently posed to me by a participant on a webinar I was leading.  The subject of the webinar was, “Why Tape?” and energy is always a part of answering that question.  But as for who would care about this, I didn’t have a simple answer.  The EPA did a study on power consumption in US data centers which was requested (mandated) by the US Congress.  I hate it when the US Congress starts asking me questions.  It’s never good…

The EPA study found that in 2006 data centers were paying around $4.5 Billion for power each year, and they projected that would grow to around $7.4 Billion a year by the end of 2011.  And that’s using “current efficiency trends.”  I quote. 

Who are these people?  While I don’t know exactly who would care about the power bill… at those prices… you’d sure as shooting think that somebody cares.

Is it time to delve into conspiracy theory?  Are the power companies behind this?  “Let’s keep them so confused about who cares what they spend on power that they’ll just keep on spending.”   As much as I love conspiracy theories, I think the answer is a bit more straight forward (aka boring).  Hope you’ll keep reading.

Historically IT teams have tackled evaluating and purchasing data center equipment while the data center facilities group has handled power and cooling.  The IT group usually reports to the CIO and the facilities group reports through facilities management.  In many companies, these are two entirely different organizations.  If IT is evaluating and purchasing the products that use the power and generate the heat, while Facilities is working to provide power and remove the heat, the guys buying the products (which suck up the energy) have no incentive to reduce the problem.  While I’m sure there are people who care about energy consumption in every company, they don’t care at the right time:  When the IT products are being evaluated and purchased.  

If you’re selling computer equipment, and you’re advertising power savings, you may be wasting your money.  If you buy computer equipment, and you ignore power savings as a feature, you may be wasting your power.   “Waste not; want not” my mom always said.  But she knew nothing of computers or data centers.  Yet I think she was onto something…

It’s not like this at all companies.  According to Dean Nelson, senior director of global data center services for eBay, eBay groups their power bill under the IT budget.  "When the CIO is paying the power bill, [he] really understands the impact of the decisions being made," Nelson reported at the Uptime Institute Symposium 2010 in New York a few months ago.  He went on to say eBay's IT department is "self-funding" new spending by being more efficient.  My mom would have loved this guy.   Although I am thankful her lack of computer skills kept her from becoming an eBay junkie. 

Do you know who pays the power bill at your data center?  If not ask around.   And if the person who is paying the power bill has no input on the products being purchased which use the power, ask “why”?  Your mother would be proud.