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Greening of the Data Center

Greening of the Data Center

Jim Shanks

These days, a pronounced movement toward environmentally responsible and sustainable practices seems as inevitable as the sun rising in the east.

The way to get there, though, doesn’t necessarily emanate from a formal green information technology initiative mandated by a state legislature or city council or originated as an executive order from a governor’s desk or a mayor’s office.

These days, a pronounced movement toward environmentally responsible and sustainable practices seems as inevitable as the sun rising in the east.

The way to get there, though, doesn’t necessarily emanate from a formal green information technology initiative mandated by a state legislature or city council or originated as an executive order from a governor’s desk or a mayor’s office.

Procurement based on Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) and Energy Star ratings is an excellent start. However, much of the impetus to adopt greener practices in government IT has developed out of the continual need to appropriate data center and wiring closet space for equipment and to reduce costs.

“We don’t actually express it in terms of a ‘green’ movement, although we recycle extensively,” says the state of Missouri’s CIO Dan Ross. “A few years ago, we went through a painstaking process of data center consolidation. Now we’re migrating agency IT functions over to our state data center — we will create no new server rooms in the agencies, and we’re dismantling server rooms as we bring those functions in.” One result of consolidation is big energy savings, which will be further enhanced when Missouri adopts server virtualization.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that data centers and servers account for 1.5 percent of total energy usage in the United States. What’s more, the EPA expects data center and server power consumption to nearly double within the next four years. That statistic alone underscores the urgency of the movement toward greater efficiency in data center design.

“Our new state data center in Austin is purposely designed for high energy efficiency,” says Lara Coffer, director of the Technology Center Operations division at the Texas Department of Information Resources. “Innovations designed into the building include power systems that are 93 percent efficient and a lighting system that measures 23 percent below the state energy allocation for this size building.

“Right now here in Texas, we’re consolidating data capacity from 31 state-agency data centers to this new Austin data center and an existing one in the city of San Angelo. Over the course of a seven-year contract, we project savings totaling $178 million.”

And those millions of dollars in taxpayer savings speak volumes — making green IT not only the right thing to do, but the fiscally prudent thing.

“We’re getting more and more customer questions about energy efficiency as well as recycled content in our products and packaging,” says Aubrey Woolley, government policy and compliance analyst at Canon USA. “And we’re always eager to cooperate in procurement as well as dealing with ‘end-of-product-life’ issues on our equipment.

“At Canon, we have a ‘3R’ policy: reduce, reuse and recycle. All of these efforts are very much intended to benefit our customers while also helping us reach our own environmental goals as a corporation.”

There are numerous ways to approach green IT. The key is to make it a priority.

Going Green

  • Use special software to wake idle computers to perform administrative tasks or updates during off-work hours.
  • Bone up on global environmental rules and regulations for IT products that have significant impact in the United States, such as the European Union Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS).
  • Instead of casting outmoded IT gear on the trash heap, put old PCs to better use by giving them to schools or selling them to the public.
  • Consider leasing equipment instead of buying. This puts the responsibility to properly reuse, recycle or otherwise dispose of the gear on its owner.
Jan 14 2008

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