IT Needs an Urge to Conserve

Today’s data centers consume 0.5 percent of the world’s energy but are about as energy efficient as a poorly maintained Hummer is fuel efficient. But getting data centers to run more like a Prius is going to take a lot of work in areas that range from equipment design to the physical layout of the data center. IT shops need to get smarter about managing their equipment to fully utilize servers and storage assets as well.

A recent survey performed by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. for the Uptime Institute lays out a clear picture of what IT managers and CIOs can do to make computing less of a drain on the resources of both companies and the Earth. The survey concludes that the cost of managing a data center is rising to the point where it’s affecting the operations of companies’ core businesses.

The report dismisses the idea that new technology and equipment are needed, saying instead that conservation could be used to double energy efficiency in the next four years and halt the growth of greenhouse gases caused by data centers. It also suggests a few key things to bring costs and energy usage into line. Suggestions include making sure data centers increase the utilization of their servers from an average of 6 percent through the use of virtualization. Improving efficiency by decommissioning older servers is also recommended.

Another way to conserve costs and energy is to assign responsibility for conservation to the CIO and to get executives involved in making decisions about data centers and IT. Finally, the report calls for an industry-wide efficiency metric for data centers, although as we’ve previously argued, getting such a metric in place will be a challenge. Doing these things should both decrease energy use but also increase the bottom line, which makes conservation a green solution indeed.