Reducing Carbon Footprint in Data Centers

The reduction in carbon footprint is starting to take hold with some companies. Carbon footprint is the measurement of greenhouse gasses (GHG) emitted. As we consider the impact on greenhouse gasses the environment, carbon footprint becomes a clear target. A heavy consumer of energy, data centers will increasingly become a lightning rod.

There are many ways for individuals and companies to reduce their carbon footprint. For data center owners and operators, energy consumption is a key metric. The EPA and DOE are both leading efforts to increase energy efficiencies in data centers. With the EPA projecting significant energy consumption increases for data centers, they risk becoming a target for better consumption methods. eBay is an example of one company making a difference. In a recent report by Data Center Journal, eBay is targeting a 15% reduction by 2012. One example of eBay’s efforts is their Gold level LEED certified data center in San Jose.

Many have used the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) metric by the Green Grid as one way to measure power efficiencies. While a good first step, as an industry, we need a holistic approach that provides a consistent way to measure power input and compute output. The methodology needs to account for the type of power coming into the facility too. One approach to measuring efficiencies in the data center has been tackled by Data Center Pulse. Their DC Stack provides a holistic approach to understanding efficiencies in the data center. An additional step in the measurements could include the carbon score for energy coming into the data center. For example, renewable energy sources (as opposed to those from burning of fossil fuels) have a lower carbon footprint.

Thought efforts from Data Center Pulse, Green Grid, Silicon Valley Leadership Group and others, we can expect to see further work done toward understand, measuring and improving energy efficiencies in our data centers.

IT’s Hard Pill to Swallow

In recent weeks, folks have suggested that cloud computing will cause the demise of the IT department. From an apocalyptical viewpoint, one could see this future. Others take a perspective of denial. The truth lies somewhere between…and unfortunately trending negative. But that can change…and quickly.

From the perspective of the business leader, IT’s role has diminished towards providing minimal support as compared with the potential that an IT organization can provide. We only need to point to business perspectives to validate this: IT as a cost center, the IT quest for business alignment, and IT’s illusive seat at the table. This is not news.

Of late, cloud computing has become a lightning rod for blame. However, clouds are not to blame…at least not for this lightning. The damage occurred over years (and decades); long before cloud computing. Cloud computing is simply accelerating the process.

Our industry has crossed an important threshold that never existed in the past. Previously, business units had to work with IT organizations even if they resisted in doing so. Managing technology was simply too cumbersome for individual business units to manage.

Cloud computing changes the game. Business units may now sign up for services without the involvement of their IT colleagues. And they are doing just that…today! This may appear as a benefit to business units to increase responsiveness and flexibility. However, there are hidden dangers lurking.

IT professionals understand those risks in spades. But the added complexity is seen as just another task on the already overflowing plate of responsibilities. We (as IT professionals) need to embrace cloud computing and find ways to leverage it to the fullest while mitigating the risks that lurk.

In doing so, we can circumvent the need for business units to sign up for services themselves by becoming increasingly responsive and flexible. Over time, this will improve the culture and relationship between IT and the business units…and serve to solve new, more important challenges.