How Green is Green enough in a Data Center?

A green data center is not exactly defined.  Being energy efficient, a low PUE, and renewable energy are all good, but even if you had no carbon footprint for operations, there are others areas of environmental impact that environmentalist could point out.

Data Center Journal has an editorial post on being green.

How Green is Green Enough?

Design Editorial



The recent (and ongoing) dispute between the social-networking giant Facebook and environmental advocacy group Greenpeace (“Greenpeace Versus Facebook”) illustrates the growing strain between the data center industry and some groups and individuals seeking to protect the environment. Ignoring the extremes of “man can do no right” and “man can do no wrong” with regard to the environment, the question in the data center context becomes how far must companies go to earn the title of “environmentally friendly.

And being the voice of reason.

The quest for environmental friendliness is, in some sense, a quest for perfection: a data center, or any system that uses energy, can always become more efficient (perfect efficiency is impossible, courtesy of the second law of thermodynamics) and can always make better use of its available resources. Even if a data center reached 100% efficiency, someone, somewhere, would likely still fault it for using too much energy. As the above-mentioned blog article states, “In short, can we ever be green enough? The short answer is no.”
Thus, data center managers must decide what their own goals for environmental friendliness are and in what time table these goals are achievable. With energy prices rising and public concern about the environment growing, companies have little choice but to take action in this regard, but what actions they take may well be limited by available resources. Some new efficiency technologies may well reduce a data center’s power consumption, but the cost of these technologies may well be out of reach for some companies. But to be responsible and to avoid being hectored by environmental groups, some action is required.

Jeffrey closes with this advice.

Perhaps the best approach for companies attempting to “green” their data centers is moderation. Reduce energy waste, yes; reduce inefficiency, yes; be responsible, yes; but don’t break the bank attempting to achieve perfection when perfection is not even needed.

But, be careful this last advice is what Facebook did.  What data center managers need to be aware of is if you work for a big brand company which almost all the big data center companies are, then you could be a target identified by Greenpeace.

So, when you green your data center, you need to think about how others view your efforts as their view of green may not be the same as yours.