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Data center efficiency tutorial

Energy efficiency issues are a growing concern for IT professionals. Get the latest news and resources with this Executive Guide.

While the report released earlier this year by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) didn't provide the type of answers some IT professionals were looking for, it did unearth some interesting statistics. According to the EPA, data centers will require almost twice as much power by 2011 if current trends continue. What changes can you and your organization make to try to avoid such an outcome? Find out the answer to that and other pressing energy efficiency questions with this tutorial.

This guide is part of the CIO Briefing series, which is designed to give IT leaders strategic guidance and advice that addresses the management and decision-making aspects of timely topics. For a complete list of topics covered to date visit the CIO Briefings section.

EPA report gives data centers little guidance

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report warning of the rising energy toll for running the nation's data centers is getting high-fives from industry vendors who praise the study as a thoughtful look at a complex issue. But initial reaction from some analysts is the report uncovers little that isn't already in the public domain, and it squanders an opportunity to give IT organizations a detailed roadmap -- including meaningful incentives -- for solving a major problem.

"We were looking for a stronger carrot and much bigger stick," said Rakesh Kumar, an analyst at research consultancy Gartner Inc. "The tax incentives are marginal and there should be, in our opinion, some threat of legislation that is going to hit organizations. I look at this, and I think the smart organizations are doing it anyway. You look at the whole report, 80% is data you can pick up off the Web, to be honest."

One of the main findings of the 133-page report is that if current trends continue, energy consumption for U.S. data centers and servers will nearly double by 2011 to more than 100 billion kilowatts per hour (kWh), costing the public and private sectors $7.4 billion annually and requiring an additional 10 power plants.

Learn more in "EPA report gives data centers little guidance." Also:

  • EPA finishes draft report on data center power consumption
    The federal environmental agency has completed its report on data center power consumption, and is looking for public comments before it issues its final report to Congress by the end of June.
  • CIOs, experts bristle at prospect of EPA mandates
    The EPA has the green light to study energy consumption in data centers. Vendors say studies are good, but they're wary of possible government mandates. CIOs agree. The market will get them to energy efficiency faster than federal mandates.

Waiting on green IT is shortsighted, say experts

CIOs whose data centers struggle with power and cooling issues shouldn't wait for new green computing technologies to come in and save the day. It'll be too late by then, say experts who spoke at this year's AFCOM Data Center World conference. Instead, CIOs and data center managers should take simple but practical initiatives to liberate their tapped-out data centers.

Free up capacity in the most straightforward way possible: Turn off some old servers, said conference speaker Mark A. Monroe, director of sustainable computing at Sun Microsystems Inc.

According to Monroe, data centers "drift" over time. Someone might add a server to a data center to run an application. However, as years go by, the owner of that server moves on and the application that runs on the server is no longer used. But the box (Monroe calls it a "mystery server") continues to run, taking up precious power and cooling capacity in the data center.

Find out more in "Waiting on green technology is shortsighted, say experts." Also:

Managing the energy crisis: A Special Report for CIOs

Rows of flashing slot machines buzz throughout Viejas Enterprises' tribal casino. An outdoor arena erupts with light and sound as entertainers such as country singer Randy Travis and comedian Bill Cosby take the stage. Energy emanates freely from the epicenter of this Indian reservation 30 miles east of San Diego -- that is, except inside its data center.

Two years ago CIO Moti Vyas' IT staff was plugging new servers into the nearest outlet inside a cramped server room, only to receive calls from the facilities department. You're drawing too much power from the circuit, they said. More power would also be needed to cool the new servers, yet the server room was nearing its power threshold. All this because Viejas Enterprises was trying to keep up with Californians' growing appetite for gambling and entertainment.

So Vyas added another server room to gain a little more power and space -- a temporary fix as he planned a grander solution. Viejas Enterprises eventually made a multimillion-dollar investment to build an energy-efficient data center. "There were business drivers and technology drivers," Vyas says. "Business drivers were to support today's business and plan for tomorrow's needs. The technology drivers were power, cooling due to blade servers and virtualization, security and future-proofing."

Discover more about the energy crisis in "Managing the energy crisis: A Special Report for CIOs."

Green IT strategies could lead to hefty ROI

Savvy and forward-thinking CIOs have recognized that ecological concerns aren't just for tree-huggers. Large enterprises, and to a lesser extent midrange companies, are starting to deploy products, and better yet, long-range green IT strategies, to reduce the carbon footprints of data centers. A number of factors are propelling this trend -- one of the biggest is the energy crisis.

On Aug. 2, the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star Program released to Congress a report assessing opportunities for energy efficiency improvements for government and commercial computer servers and data centers in the United States.

According to the report, data centers accounted for roughly 1.5% of the country's electricity consumption in 2006. The energy consumption of servers and data centers has doubled in the past five years and is expected to almost double again in the next five years, to more than 100 billion kWh, costing about $7.4 billion annually.

Existing green IT technologies and strategies could reduce typical server energy use by an estimated 25%, with even greater energy savings possible with advanced technologies.

Learn more in "Green IT strategies could lead to hefty ROI." Also:

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