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Data Centers: Going Green to Improve Costs, Efficiency and Public Image

By Dick Weisinger

Data centers are increasingly going ‘green’.  The annual global market for green data centers is projected to grow to $45.4 billion by 2016 from the current $17.1 billion at a growth rate of 28 percent.

Eric Woods, senior analyst at Pike Research, said that “The green data center has evolved in response to concern over energy use, but it is also connected to the broader transformation that data centers are undergoing.  Data centers of the future will be more energy efficient, more adaptable to new business needs and new technology opportunities, and virtualized to ensure optimal use of IT resources, space, and energy.”

Data centers are choosing the path towards being more green because these factors:

  • A desire to better balance of elements from cost/efficiency/capacity/reliability
  • Media image

A report by 451 Research found that management of power and cooling in data centers can often provide some of the biggest cost savings and efficiency improvements.

In terms of media image, many companies will go to great lengths to avoid damage from negative media publicity.   A story in the New York Times in September implied that polluting data centers are a dirty secret behind the success of the internet.   A companion story in the New York Times tagged Microsoft as operating a polluting four-building data center close to Quincy Washington which Microsoft built in 2006.  Charges ranged from employing dirty 40 giant diesel backup generators located near an elementary school to using strong-arm tactics for avoiding the need to pay a penalty when the facility began consuming more power than originally estimated, driving up electricity costs in the community.

Forbes and others complained that the New York Times articles weren’t a fair characterization because they’re not representative of how new data centers are being constructed.  To rebut the New York Times article, Brian Janous, data center architect at Microsoft, responded saying that “At Microsoft we … are working to provide efficiencies that were unheard of a few short years ago. We are on a journey where the innovation rate is staggering. Indeed, the fundamental promise of the cloud and the reasons that Microsoft has invested so heavily in evolving the data center infrastructure and the software applications running in them is that we believe our cloud services can help improve both efficiency and utilization.”

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