Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Greening Data Centres - A short Term Solution

Last August US banking group Citi announced that, as part of its programme to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 10% by 2011, it was spending €170m on building a green data centre to provide IT services to its European operation. The new facility would use 25% less power and prevent 11,000 tons of CO2 entering the atmosphere every year.

It's not built yet, but the Frankfurt centre has already won awards. In December, Reuters quoted the Head of Citi Realty Services for EMEA, John Killey as saying "Citi's commitment to ensuring sustainability lies at the heart of all its major projects and the new EMEA data center is no different: From inception, through construction to operation, a rigorous, resource-efficient, balanced and holistic approach has been adopted that integrates sustainability without compromise to performance or reliability".

However, with the data centre to be completed soon, John Killey apparently (according to told an audience in London last week, that electricity usage by IT equipment within Citi's data centres is continuing to increase by 12.5% a year.

So there you have it - it looks like the 25% energy savings the green data centre will make will be gone in a little over two years.

Of course it's not that simple, but it does reinforce the issues around greening IT. It is possible (and necessary) to make big cuts in energy use, but the general expansion in business use of IT means that the gains will be quickly eaten away. There is a lot more that needs doing at the hardware level to reduce power, but it is also clear that an in-house IT department can end up chasing its tail to reduce power use.

In the longer term it's using IT differently that will have the biggest impact. For example, on Monday Google announced the integration of Google Apps with, making Google's web-based office applications, Gmail and Google Talk available inside Salesforce. It's another step towards cutting ties with desktop applications, which can be a much more energy-efficient way of working.

© The Green IT Review

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