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Does Going Green Reduce Energy Use?

December 20, 2008 - 2 Comments

Well- sort of.Had an interesting”Green” data center discussion at a conference this week that addressed some nuance on the developing taxonomy of energy efficiency in IT.So- to pose a specific question:Will adopting energy efficient solutions from best of breed partners and vendors reduce the total amount of energy your business will use as it grows? The short answer is no, at least not if your business is growing.Here is the thing, energy usage basically mirrors productivity. Unsurprisingly, countries with the highest GDP also use the most energy. This directly translates into our business operations. Whether you’re a company that scales through adding more headcount or by adding more compute and multimedia per headcount, you are using more total energy.imageIn data centers, users translate into hardware. The more productive and complex the business becomes, the more complex and energy intensive a data center becomes (typically). So assessing the efficiency of a business’ operations can also translate into energy efficiency. I stress the word”can” here as we often don’t have resources invested in managing the translation between the two. We have a very large retail customer who has translated it very well.What an efficiency push starting in the Data Center can bring your business operation are a few things:1) You will reduce wasted Watts (as a proportion of your total Watts)2) You will very likely have a dip in total Watts consumed specific to your infrastructure (think of the virtualization story of being able to remove underutilized equipment)3) You will gain the peripheral and cascading benefits of reduced supporting requirements like white space, cabling, U-space, even whole facilities depending on where you are today4) You will simplify5) You will be able to implement energy monitoring and management as a serviceThis would be about where I see most early adopting customers and partners today. The leaders have already reaped the initial benefits of consolidation, virtualization and new capacity planning methodologies. The next frontier it would appear is tackling energy as a service that is measured, monitored and managed the same way we manage any other IT service today.Building the competency in your IT organization to manage energy efficiency helps save cost by reducing waste and helps you better forecast and manage power capacity requirements. Energy efficiency does not reduce or reverse the total energy a company will use as it grows.That is why low carbon generation of energy is so critical to the long term success of any strategy to combat climate change. Learning how to consume resources most efficiently is a critical first step for us to learn as we face increased volatility and scarcity in energy markets moving forward. Not just energy, water which provides hydro-electric is a resource we need to get better at managing too.imageSo if anyone is telling you they will reduce your total energy use without mentioning that the net savings only lasts until your business growth catches up with it-is only telling you part of the story IMHO.Managing energy, efficiency and productivity are arguably the biggest parts IT can play in Green and is indeed the”low hanging fruit” but it is one of three legs on the stool. The other two being cleaner generation and carbon sequestration.Food for thought.

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  1. Great points Jim and thanks for sharing. I think we fundamentally agree with the only difference being the temporal. Since much of the marketing I’ve seen towards data centers on Green and energy efficiency focuses on
    educe””, I wanted to make the delineation between capacity requirements and efficiency. As you point out, efficiency is a subjective concept and predicated on use case. In the use case of data centers, they are continually growing and changing. If you look to approach going Green in the data center as an effort to reduce your total energy consumption by say 20% which is laudable… but your business is growing (and IT by extension) by 5% a year then you’ve effectively grown back to your initial total consumptive level in ~4 years.I certainly do not mean to say we should not rapidly adopt energy efficiency as a fundamental design criteria throughout IT (including operations). We should… and we will learn many valuable lessons along the way including how to cost justify more efficient ways of working, playing and learning.Thanks Jim!”

  2. I agree with you… and disagree with you. As you explained, there a lot of variables involved when looking at the energy a given entity uses. Nonetheless, if we are looking at “going green” or specifically creating a “greener” data center we should be evaluating how much energy it requires to accomplish a given workload (or produce a specific product). In each business we measure efficiency in different ways, but if while using less energy we are still able to produce a given product, we are making progress and will reap the benefits (savings). How the energy we need is generated or whether the product we produce is being used efficiently may be outside our control and mean our overall expenditure is not shrinking proportionally. We have to hope at each step in the process, efficiency is a focus and being improved upon so in the end we are able to produce what we need with less of a drain on our resources.