As oil pushes toward $100 per barrel, CIOs have come under scrutiny for a new reason: rising electricity consumption for powering and cooling the data center. By some estimates, the cost of powering a server or storage array is three times the purchase cost over the lifetime of the appliance. In some companies, the data center is the No. 1 power hog. Almost every large organization is looking at ways to save money by reducing IT power consumption.
"Data centers are seeing tremendous growth rates," says Mark Bramfitt, senior program manager at Pacific Gas & Electric in San Francisco. "Our customers are reporting myriad issues related to power and cooling." One of the nation’s largest utilities whose service area includes Silicon Valley, PG&E itself has embarked on a three-year, $1 billion plan to invest in more energy-efficient technologies.
While the goals are invariably the same?to reduce energy consumption and cut power costs?the innovative ways companies are taking to achieve them vary. Some of the most popular approaches are virtualization; swapping out of old, inefficient servers with new "greener" machines; more efficient network and PC management; adoption of low-use cooling strategies and high-efficiency uninterruptible power systems; and data center consolidation.
Despite all this, the adoption rate of certain energy-saving strategies remains relatively low. For server virtualization, it’s less than 10 percent nationwide, PG&E reports. "Most servers never get turned off," Bramfitt says. "In many data centers, you will actually find equipment that is no longer being used but still drawing power."
Some solutions for reducing power cost next to nothing. Many facilities are set up to maintain an almost constant temperature and humidity when, in fact, the systems can operate within a broad environmental range. So, for instance, by automatically turning off air conditioning units during specified times, companies can save a bundle in cooling costs.
Going green is often a combination of new equipment, management strategies and good old common sense. Baseline presents "Power Center," a collection of reports about how leading companies are striving to reduce their IT power consumption.