Datacentre operators facing green tidal wave

Businesses are on a mission to improve the energy efficiency of datacentres and save money, according to datacentre operator Digital Realty Trust.

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Businesses are on a mission to improve the energy efficiency of datacentres and save money, according to datacentre operator Digital Realty Trust.

The operator has 12 million square feet of datacentre space, mostly in the USA with some in Europe. This is used by corporate customers such as Yahoo and eBay.

The report, scheduled to be released in mid September, surveyed senior executives at 100 large companies to assess their green datacentre intentions and found:

Over half have already established strategies to increase energy efficiency
They have green datacentre plans
They have senior-level management support
The green strategies are supported by budgets
Sixty percent agreed vendor selection would be affected by their energy-efficiency strategy.

Enterprises face datacentre computing resource growth being limited by cost, space and power capacity pressures. Ceilings are being reached on the electricity supply needed to power devices and cool the datacentre. Datacentres are also filling up with server boxes. The US Environmental Protection Agency predicted that datacentre energy supply costs will grow to $7.4 billion in 2011, from the total of $4.5 billion in 2006.

Reducing datacentre electricity needs will lower supply costs and raise the ceiling on computing resource growth. Lower energy needs translates into reduced carbon emissions, which in turn will help with global warming. But the drivers for the effort to bypass datacentre computing resource ceilings and save electricity supply costs, are not purely environmentalism.

Digital Realty Trust (DRT) engineering VP Jim Smith discussed the company's green datacentre ideas in a Infoworld webcast recently. He said: "A datacentre is an incredibly energy-intensive machine. ... Green equals efficient. ... increasing efficiency on my energy use saves money on the bottom line."

For an operator such as DRT, the desire by business to 'green' datacentres in this way has significant cost implications, as any serious change costs a lot of money. For example, to move into the cooled pod environment, as used by Sun will mean spending money revising cooling systems and amending internal datacentre structures, such as putting server racks into enclosed modules.

Currently DRT is highlighting responses such as server consolidation through virtualisation which will lower the number of servers in a datacentre. It is also putting forward relatively simple, and for it, inexpensive measures, such as turning the room thermostat up 3 degrees so the cooling energy load is lessened.

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