Green Computing, Green IT and Power Services for Data Centers

In the modern age of carbon footprints and energy efficiency where exactly do power services for data centers fit in? In 2008 data centers were found to consume 50 times as much energy as equivalent sized office space (Aylin, 2008). The ICT industry in general is estimated to be responsible for at least two percent of the global CO2 emissions, almost the same amount as the airline industry (Gartner inc., 2007). With increasing global pressure to conserve energy and decrease CO2 emissions, how is this ever growing industry dealing with tightening legislation?

Power Services for Data Centers

Some important issues facing modern data centers have been found to be: data center age, cooling and energy requirements (Barwick, 2011). The age of the facility is an issue owing to the fact that older IT components are slower and far less energy efficient. Data center managers are therefore feeling pressured to either modernise or be left behind. As part of the modernisation process managers are looking at upgrading features such as: floor plan, and cooling and ventilation systems.

Problems in Cooling Data Centers

The two unavoidable problems facing data centers however, are cooling and energy requirements. These two issues generally go hand-in-hand as cooling a facility directly influences its energy needs. Until relatively recently energy usage wasn’t considered to be a key design criterion for data centers (The Green Grid, 2007), however current energy prices and legislation are making energy expenditure ever more significant.

Controlling Energy Usage with Power Services for Data Centers

There have been several pieces of legislation introduced over the last few decades to control energy usage which have the potential to effect power services for data centers. In places such as the UK, the Netherlands and Germany, where a high proportion of the electricity is sourced from nuclear plants, this issue is ever more prevalent. In the UK data centers must soon participate in a carbon reduction program, which requires organisations to purchase a carbon allowance for the following year. Other countries such as the US and Australia are watching the progress of such programs with great interest.

If these types of programs were to come into effect the consequences could range from minimal to devastating for the IT industry and data centers in particular. Some argue that the IT industry is ahead of the curve regarding planning and preparation for becoming more energy efficient, and that many data centers would only require new components to remain competitive. Many of these new components are able to function at higher temperatures without damage, and therefore reduce the need for expensive cooling systems.

Others argue that data centers in the affected areas would be moved offshore, in an attempt to avoid rising costs. They also argue that if the centers stay in the effected countries, the price rises will be passed on to the end user, increasing the price of basic IT services. Burgess (2011) proposes however, that it is important to keep in mind that carbon reduction programs generally revolve around carbon emissions rather than energy usage. Data centers could therefore technically use the same amount of energy from a renewable source in order to avoid penalties.

In short, the effect the introduction of such legislation can not yet be fully understood. The increasing number of data centers worldwide however, and the incident rapid advancements in technology are bound to yield the answers to at least some of these problems.