Friday, 2 March 2012

Data centre week – green awareness is growing

Data centres have been the hot IT topic in the UK over the last week or two, mainly driven by the Data Centre World exhibition and conference on this week in London.

Prior to the event, data centre solutions provider Digital Realty Trust released the latest findings of its annual European market survey. The interviews with over 200 senior decision-makers in £500m businesses in six countries across Europe found that 85% of respondents intend to expand their data centre resources in the next year, compared with  82% at the end of 2010. Demand for new data centres is highest among UK and Spanish businesses (35% and 32%), with the French and Dutch companies displaying the lowest interest in expansion (14% and 12%).

The survey also revealed encouraging signs that organisations are making greater efforts to improve the efficiency of their existing data centres, with a greater proportion aware of the power usage effectiveness (PUE). Only 12% didn’t know their PUE, against 18% last year. There was also an increase in companies actively monitoring their power consumption: almost three-quarters (73%), compared to 68% in 2011.

I went along to the Data Centre World exhibition to see for myself and sat in on some seminars. This is the heavy engineering end of the IT world and not for the fainthearted (I’m more of a software and services man myself) but green shoots are everywhere. It may not be described as green, but the primarily cost cutting exercises have the same impact. For example, modular data centres are clearly a fast-growing trend with the ability to save significant amounts of power (and hence carbon) and money, compared with the previous generation of monolithic facilities.

In the same theme, it was the seminar on evaporative cooling in data centres that had standing room only. The presentation, from EcoCooling had the title ‘How evaporative cooling can reduce cooling costs by 90% and achieve a PUE of less than 1.1’. You can see why people would be interested.

Nonetheless, IDC presented research results that showed that sustainability is still a long way down a list of IT priorities. But I believe this will change.

I don’t normally make predictions. (‘Forecasts are hard, particularly about the future’ has been my watchword as an Green IT/IT analyst). But until now what’s made the IT operation more sustainable has been primarily the cost-cutting exercises by the IT department/data centre managers.  Now, though, the green agenda is being adopted at the highest level within companies as an integral element of business strategy. It is increasingly part of the corporate mission, where IT has a pivotal role, and as such is gaining significant visibility. Within 18 months or so IT departments will be out and proud about their green/sustainability strategy, and not just for their own operations but for the benefit of the business as a whole.


One last word. As part of a week primarily immersed in the data centre industry I also visited Panduit, which provides a lot of the physical infrastructure for data centres. Some forthright discussions ensued with David Palmer-Stevens and also some revealing insights.

But the most interesting part was off subject. He mentioned an MIT researcher that has taken computing away from computers. Doesn’t sound like much, but it makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck when you see what it means. It has to be the real-world future of computing, and by doing away with a lot of physical devices also has sustainability implications.



Here’s the link to the video:

© The Green IT Review

1 comment:

  1. Interesting point regarding how sustainable technologies are far down the list of IT priorities. As an IT vendor, I have seen the shift in emphasis from green IT to cost saving IT, over the last few years. Take this tool for example:

    I created this online virtualisation calculator that estimates how much your ‘non virtualised’ servers are costing compared to a virtualised environment. Originally we measured the carbon emissions created. But now we simply measure the cost. The reason for this change is simply due to customer feedback. I regularly interview clients and they are under increasing pressure to forget about how green a technology is and focus on its running costs.

    Luckily in this instance there is no dichotomy between the two!