IT struggles with datacentre power consumption

Nearly half of IT professionals admit that they had run out of space, power or cooling capacity at their datacentres, according to a recent survey.


Nearly half of IT professionals say their organisations have run out of space, power or cooling capacity at their datacentres, according to a survey.

That was among the startling findings of a new study called Lean & Green - Reducing IT Energy Drain for Business Gain, conducted by the Business Performance Management (BPM) Forum.

Sponsored by network storage vendor BlueArc, the study surveyed 150 IT professionals (70 percent of respondents were VP level or above, with nearly 30 percent C-level and 10 percent CEOs) to discover the issues surrounding the use of green technologies within datacentres.

Three-quarters of respondents gave their organisations a "C" grade or worse in ability to control IT energy consumption. And almost two-thirds admitted they have no specific green plans in place for the datacentre.

Forty-six percent of respondents also reported that they had run out of space, power or cooling capacity.

"The biggest surprise for us was the gap between intent and activity," said Derek Kober, director at the BPM Forum. "It is a bit of double whammy, energy costs are rising rapidly, and data handling costs are also rising. We see that two thirds of companies do not have a plan in place to address their growing energy requirements."

"One of the things we think is the awareness is not out there of energy saving technologies," he added. "One of the goals of a study like this is to make them aware of the issues," Kober said.

The survey found that it is not cost prohibitive to operate an environmentally sound datacentre, and green technologies can help save money in the long-term. Indeed, more than 20 percent of respondents thought their organisations could save $100,000 (£50,000) or more per year reducing server and network storage energy consumption. Six percent thought they could save more than $10 million (£5 million) annually.

"It's this cost savings that accompanies green computing that is driving the train, even more than a sense of environmental responsibility or corporate showmanship," says the report.

The power consumption of datacentres has been a subject of growing concern. Earlier this year for example, a US start-up announced plans to open the first of 50 ship-borne floating datacentres, said to be much more environmentally friendly than land-based datacentres.

This growing need for datacentres has a knock-on effect for power consumption. Analyst house IDC for example estimates that the power consumed by datacentres in the US is equivalent to that produced by five power plants in a year. Indeed, both Greenpeace and Stanford researchers have estimated that energy expenditures and requirements have doubled in the last five years.

Almost half of those polled said IT energy consumption increased in their organisation last year, even as the cost of energy rose.

Jon Affeld, director of product marketing at BlueArc believes there are two immediate solutions available to reduce power consumption in the data centre, namely consolidation of servers and virtualisation technology.

"The latest generation of technology is a lot more efficient than older hardware," said Affeld. "New equipment is fundamentally more efficient, and it is possible for organisations to consolidate with less equipment."

"One company I know of consolidated fifty Windows servers down to a single system," he said, simply by implementing new equipment.

And the study drove home the costs of running a datacentre. Nearly 20 percent of those polled in the survey spend more than $1 million (£500,000) per year on IT energy consumption, and 8 percent spend more than $10 million (£5 million). The good news was that nearly 20 percent of respondents set goals of 5 percent energy reduction or less, and almost two-thirds had set goals of 25 percent reduction or less.

"Enterprises are going to have to deal with the looming datacentre environmental crisis in the short term, particularly with increasing server sprawl and power consumption spiralling out of control," says the study. "Companies must decide the best way to do this in terms of cost and environmental benefits."

Last month, another survey warned that datacentre cooling and power consumption costs, boosted by higher-than-expected rates of server rollout, are undermining the basic economics of datacentres.

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