4 Replies Latest reply on May 12, 2011 8:06 PM by baellison

    Economics or Ecology?; How does 'Green' fit in Data Center investment decision making.


      Economy or Ecology?  What does 'Green' really mean in the context of business in a free market?  Have companies become more altruistic in the wake of  'An Inconvenient Truth' and $4+/gallon gasoline?  I think not, though I would love to hear your feedback.....


      Those of us who buy into global warming, the emerging energy crisis, and the implications of overconsumption to our collective well being (full disclosure - this includes me) want very much to believe that companies will and are wholeheartedly investing in Green processes, technologies and products.  To a degree, this is true.  But micro-economic theory simply does not support the notion of investing in Green for the sake of Green, absent some perceived profit or other tangible benefit to the owner's of the company.


      Over the past couple of years much has been made of Man's impact on global climate change and messages about unsustainability of current standards of living appear virtually every where I look.  To a large degree, Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' has had exactly the impact that he intended; 'Green' has become an integral part of daily conversations and general cultural awareness for most of us.


      But how much of this is truly resulting in changes to the way corporations and (specifically) IT organizations make decisions and do business, and how much is plain old capitalistic 'green-washing' to increase product desirability and subsequent sales?  Has 'Green-think' changed the fundamental business decisions that corporations make or is it business as usual with 'Green' as a nifty new catch phrase added to processes and products in order to change the perception of value and accomplishment?


      Data Centers make up one of the most rapidly growing energy consuming sectors of the global economy and also represent large investments for most corporations.  2005 data from studies conducted by the EPA and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs estimate data center energy consumption at some 1.2% of the world's energy production.  The data also indicates that consumption has doubled between 2000 and 2005 and accelerate based on the sheer amount of data center capacity being added to support the explosion in Internet content and services.  As a result, a great deal of discussion has occurred regarding making data centers 'Green'.  But is the growth in data center energy consumption alone sufficient to cause companies to pursue energy efficient design and procurement strategies?  Most likely, the growth in consumption is insufficient motivation for changing the way companies design and operate data centers.


      Other data published by the Uptime Institute indicate that we are, or soon will be at a point in time where the cost of energy consumed by a server over its depreciable life is higher than the capital cost of purchasing that server.  If true, this is much more likely to change current practices since there is a direct impact to profitability!  To the extent that energy costs impact profit, corporations are highly motivated to change and to the degree that these profit motivated improvements align with the Green agenda (i.e. energy efficiency), we will in fact, begin to conserve energy and consequent carbon emissions.


      Absent profit motives, only regulation will bring about the pursuit of Green practices.  Welcome to free enterprise!


      Comments, Questions, Criticisms?

        • 1. Re: Economics or Ecology?; How does 'Green' fit in Data Center investment decision making.

          Great post!


          I had a similar conversation today with a friend about whether or not individuals would willingly and voluntarily cut back thier driving speed on highways in an effort to increase their gas mileage and conserve fuel efficiency. He thought regulation would be required to prompt folks to make this change. I, however, was even less optimistic as I believeperhaps sadlythat people are often detached from the consequences of their actions. I don't think folks would slow down even if faced with higher speeding tickets or similar penalties.


          In business this phenomenon is almost worse, as businesses frequently must invest up front in methodologies that save money over time. Whereas a driver simply grapples with whether to change his or her behavior, companies must decide whether to shell out cash to provide savings down the road. This is a tough thing to do if budget cycles conflict and returns on investment aren't realized immediately, but over time.


          Good or bad, thanks to this new culture of eco-awareness, a company's green initiatives can become a marketing feature and positively reflect on the corporate brand. This adds value to investments companies make in their "greeness" beyond cost savings they may realize over time. Now getting companies to talk about these green strategies is another issue. But it helps make the pill a little less difficult to swallow.

          • 2. Re: Economics or Ecology?; How does 'Green' fit in Data Center investment decision making.

            What do you think about Physicallisation ?

            It so far proved to be more energy-efficient then clasical solutions or Virtualization-based solutions and it's only at it's birth right now.

            • 3. Re: Economics or Ecology?; How does 'Green' fit in Data Center investment decision making.

              Hello Brad,

              Enjoyed your book; wondering if you knew any place where I could find DC benchmark metrics for pue, watts per sq ft, kw per rack for small, medium, large data centers.



              Indranil Roy


              • 4. Re: Economics or Ecology?; How does 'Green' fit in Data Center investment decision making.

                Hi Indranil,


                Thanks for taking the time to read my book and provide feedback!  That is at least one copy that I know of that is not being used soley as a door stop or spacer in a high chair (LOL).


                I'm sorry to say that I do not know of any single source of compiled benchmarks for the items you are asking about.  PUE was never intended to be a metric for comparison of data centers run by multiple companies.  The defined approach to calculating PUE is loose enough, from a methodological point of view, that company to company comparisons are rendered suspect at best.  PUE is best used to compare multiple data centers within the same company as the measurement points, periodicity of measurements and other factors can be controlled.


                This said, the EPA's "Energy Star" program for data centers does use PUE as a reference.  That agency may be able to provide you with a list of DC's and associated PUE data.


                There is another reason for why much of the data you are asking about is not publically available.  For many DC operators, the specific energy consumption, usage efficiency, and design parameters equate to competitive advange.  Thus, these data are not commonly available to the public for fear of giving away trade secrets.


                One last thought here, both ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Airconditioning Engineers) and The Green Grid have a significant amount of data in their archives and/or publications.  Both of these groups have web sites for accessing information and you can find the links to both by using your favorite internet search tools.


                If you do find a good, comprehensive compilation of benchmark data of this type, please let me know as it would be a tremendous reference.