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Is Data Center Power Efficiency Corporate "Greenwashing"?

Posted on February 20, 2013 by Gento  |  Comment (0)

There are many ways companies can become more environmentally friendly such as using technology to cut down on travel, minimizing product packaging or using environment friendly packaging materials, and changing manufacturing processes to mention only a few. So is the emphasis on data center efficiency an easy way to have some green program that can be used in PR efforts? I say no.

Data centers consume an enormous amount of power, the generation of which produces greenhouse gases and contributes to global warming. Even if corporate data center efficiency is a relatively easy and well defined problem, easy and well defined compared to reworking a manufacturing process for example, the benefits are still very real. With some large data centers consuming megawatts of power even small efficiency gains have a material impact. But we are not talking about small improvements.

With the advent of the Green Grid’s Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), many companies are trying to achieve ever lower PUE numbers. Sometimes the figures seem like corporate bragging in the information technology trade press. But corporate boasting or not I’ll gladly take the improvements and the pressure to do better such announcements place on everyone in IT.

A few years ago, the common PUE was 2.0, i.e. half the power going to IT equipment and half going to IT support infrastructure such as computer room air conditioning (CRAC units). Now, major companies such as eBay and Google are publishing PUE figures around 1.2. That is a stunning improvement.

Not every data center will be able to achieve very low PUEs. There are practical considerations, especially for smaller data centers. For example, it may not be possible to rework a small data center to take advantage of airside economizers or cost effective to replace an existing UPS with a more efficient one. But with so much IT industry attention being paid to improving PUE and other measures to reduce power consumption in the data center, data center managers and their facilities counterparts can be proud of their accomplishments.

There may be greenwashing going on in other parts of the company but, the data center is leading many corporate sustainability efforts and making a real difference.

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