I have been writing on the Green Data Center topic for over 2 years with 1,000 blog posts. And, one of the things I have found is the name “data center” is not an accurate description to the layman of what data centers do. Are data centers the “center of data”? In the past there was one corporate building that was the place where data was housed for the corporation. The standard for Fortune 500 companies now is to have multiple data centers around the world to provide information availability, disaster recovery, and reliability. How can there be multiple centers of data? If you green the data center what am I supposed to green? These multiple centers? How?
What I propose is a more accurate description of what data centers are in this economy. The Data Center is an information factory, a building that makes information suitable for use with information machinery – servers, storage, and networking hardware. Information is the raw material input into the factory. Software running on the hardware processes information increasing the value. Like any other manufacturing process electricity is used to power and cool the machinery. How much power is used to run these information factories, in 2006 1.5% of the US electricity production was in data centers, doubling 2000 consumption, growing at a 12% annual rate.
The above is an image Google uses to illustrate its green Information Factory (aka data center).
So the choices to green the data center are now how do you green your information factory. Making factories energy efficient is a concept many are familiar with. Applied to the information factory how do you consume less energy and/or greener energy while increasing the value of information? Making power delivery more efficient applies to all parts of the data center. Cooling systems is a whole topic specialists who can figure out the most efficient way to remove the heat from the IT equipment. More efficient servers are another choice. And of course there is virtualization. Not too long ago, for every watt of power supplied to a server, there was another watt used by the power and cooling systems. Now companies like Google consume only 0.21 watts for power and cooling for every watt used by their information factory hardware which by the way consume less power than what is commonly used by the industry.
Where do you start? Most companies start where they have budget to spend. Huh? Sound silly. Well that is what happens in most companies as the IT organizations within a company are in silos of separation. Imagine if you wanted improve a car’s MPG and approached the problem based on which department had the budget available to make changes to the car.What is needed is an information engineer whose job it is to figure out how to improve the performance per watt in the whole system and prioritize the areas to address.
Companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, and eBay have addressed this problem by creating groups who have responsibilities to engineer their information factories.
Is your company running centers of data or information factories? The ones who think like information factories are driving to new levels of performance per watt. Breaking down silos, to get groups to work together. You can Green the data center by looking at how much energy gets consumed by your information factories to create higher value information. Another choice is where data centers get their power from and the carbon impact. Using 1.5% of the US electricity consumption data centers have the opportunity to locate near places with renewable energy and is commonly discussed by Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo.