Context – The efficiency challenge

The findings of this Information Age research report, conducted in partnership with the Digital Realty Trust, confirm the discouraging picture of carbon legislation readiness currently emerging from analyst studies.

A Gartner survey of IT executives from organisations across the world published in March 2009, for example, discovered that 46% were not including carbon pricing in their budgetary planning for the next 24 months, while another 36% said they were unsure if their organisations were or not.

UK companies were among the least likely to be including carbon pricing in their planning, with just 8% doing so, despite being among the few in the world that are facing imminent obligatory legislation. In contrast to the UK, Gartner’s research found that the companies among the most likely to be planning for carbon pricing were those located in India and China.

Forrester’s figures for Europe and the US are similarly discouraging: “Given that only 11% of IT shops include energy costs in their budget, it’s reasonable to assume that most are not tracking their energy consumption, either,” says Forrester analyst Doug Washburn.

Among those organisations that are pursuing greener IT, Forrester found that the main motivators for doing so were reducing energy-related operating expenses (65%), environmental imperatives (41%), corporate green agendas (33%) and reducing IT operating expenses (32%).

Certainly there is a growing trend for the power bill to end up in the hands of the CIO, says Green Grid president John Tuccillo.

“When I’m out on the road at conferences, I ask how many CIOs see the energy bill,” he says. “Two years ago I was lucky if 5% of the hands went up, but today it’s between 50% and 70%.”

Tying energy consumption to IT usage motivates organisations to manage IT efficiently, Tuccillo adds.

“If a company is measuring energy based on applications in the data centre and charging back, then as a business process owner I am more likely to share somebody else’s applications on my server,” he says.

More granular approaches like these can require more sophisticated measurement than those offered by PUE and DCiE, however.

“PUE and DCIE are only half the equation,” Tuccillo says. “What they don’t do is provide metrics for the work you do. Last year we introduced DCP, or data centre productivity, as a way to measure useful work over total facility power. It’s an excellent metric, very complete and very accurate, but it requires a level of granularity not many data centres in the world are able to do.”

This complexity, says Smith from Digital Realty Trust, renders DCP “an interesting science project” in an area where simplicity is in high demand.

“IT managers are struggling to do their day jobs developing applications and driving business change, and a lot of this stuff is off the radar,” he says.

But for Smith, even more worrying than organisations’ inability to meet carbon legislation is the macroeconomic affect that such legislation– and the implication the data centres are simply sources of pollution – may have in the long term. “Data centres are a way to increase productivity in the economy,” he explains.

“The assumption that taxing the market will reduce consumption is wrong, because as incentives to save energy increase we will drive down the cost and demand will continue to grow. There’s been no debate over whether this is the right thing to do.”

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