Thinking Tech

Green Grid draws easy profits

Green Grid draws easy profits

Posting in Design

Data center efficiency has gone from being controversial to being mom-and-apple-pie obvious in just a few years.

The Green Grid is hosting its third annual technical forum this week, showing how saving energy on IT can be easy money.

The profits from saving energy are at the top of the agenda, with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. delivering a keynote this morning titled Green Gold Rush.

Here in Atlanta, for instance, a server farm could run on air for about a month out of the year, and save by using recycled water four months a year. Cooling savings are highest in the Southwest, but water savings are lower there, too.

The group, whose executive director is Larry Vertal, most recently with AMD, already has some important deliverables, including a book on measuring the energy consumption of data centers in real time, and a cute little calculator for showing managers how much they can save. (I used the calculator in writing the paragraph above.)

A Data Center Design Guide is also in process.

Above is one of its most attractive deliverables. Called the Fresh Air Cooling Map, it tells data center managers how often it is cool enough, and most important dry enough, to use outside air to keep their servers cool for free.

A lot of the group's alliances may seem pro-forma, but its newest is anything but. It's with Data Center Plus, an online community of data center owners and operators. The alliance will let Green Grid influence important data center issues in real time.

Data center energy consumption has been a big issue since a 2007 report showed that some of that energy use is unnecessary. The amount of energy used by data centers doubled between 2000 and 2005, partly due to higher demand but also due to growth in the use of low-end servers. In 2007 it was estimated the energy cost of servers might reach $7.4 billion by next year.

So the savings are important in two ways. For data centers, spending less money on energy means there is more to spend on other things, like salaries. For energy companies, it means there is less demand growth and less of a need to quickly bring dirty power plants online.

The effort to cut data center energy costs was getting significant pushback from 2002 to 2008, but some of the tools for cutting energy use -- virtualization, monitoring energy use and turning off unused capacity -- turned out to be fairly easy to implement.

Google, which may have led to energy inefficiency through its early use of ordinary PCs as servers, has since become a leader in data center efficiency. Companies like HP are also beginning to focus on energy consumption in their future designs. When the lead dogs are saving money and beating you in the market, it gets your attention.

As a result, data center efficiency has gone from being controversial to being mom-and-apple-pie obvious in just a few years.

It's easy money, and who doesn't like that?

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure