IBM recently announced plans to build a $360 million state-of-the-art data center at its facility in Research Triangle Park (RTP), North Carolina - the latest addition to the company’s Project Big Green. The company is renovating an existing building on its RTP campus to create one of the most technologically advanced… and energy efficient data centers in the world. According to IBM, the new data center will be the first in the world to be built with IBM’s New Enterprise Data Center design principles, allowing users access to unparalleled internet-scale computing capabilities, while gaining the cost and environmental protection advantages of IBM’s energy efficiency data center design.
Business demands for more computer and storage capability are driving the growth of data center and server energy use. This growth is considerable and significantly impacts the nation’s power supply…as well as a company’s bottom line. But it’s not simply a balance sheet issue. Concerns about the environment are also pushing corporations to reassess their energy utilization and identify efficiency enhancements to reduce their carbon footprint.
Right now, firms are increasingly examining their data centers to determine how much energy they consume…and how much they can save by making them operate more efficiently. Executive search firm, A.E. Feldman, has assembled a team of industry veterans already working with a growing number of corporations with large data centers to address this issue. A.E. Feldman is assisting these corporations in implementing the strategic role of “Energy Czar” within their organization, and to identify and place qualified professionals who can design and implement initiatives for maximizing energy efficiency.
Data Centers Gobbling Up More…and More Energy
Data centers are the backbone of information technology (IT) infrastructure for businesses and other organizations, according to IBM. But they are also voracious consumers of energy with powerful servers and storage systems running business-critical technology. IBM alone owns and operates more than eight million square feet of data center space - more than any other company in the world.
Collectively, however, data centers are becoming major contributors to global warming, according to a joint study by McKinsey & Co. and The Uptime Institute. The study also contends that data centers are on track to surpass the airline industry as a major greenhouse gas polluter by 2020.
A recent EPA report reveals that data centers already consume a considerable amount of the nation’s total supply of electricity. According to the report, as of 2006, an estimated 61 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), or 1.5% of all U.S. electricity consumption is attributable to the nation’s servers and data centers. The EPA also says that between 2000 and 2006 electricity use more than doubled, amounting to about $4.5 billion in electricity costs - more than the electricity consumed by color televisions in the U.S. and similar to the amount of electricity used by the entire U.S. transportation manufacturing industry (including the manufacture of automobiles, aircraft, trucks, and ships).
In addition, the EPA projects the lifetime energy costs of the server will soon exceed the purchase price of the servers. Thus, companies are realizing that by reducing the number of servers (and the electricity and cooling required by servers) they will make a significant boost to their bottom line.
It’s true, companies can gain very big benefits by greening their data centers, according to a recent report from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Accenture Lawrence Berkeley Labs and the federal Department of Energy. The “Data Center Energy Forecast Report” study (released in response to the EPA report) is based on case studies with 17 different companies. The report reveals that by using the right techniques and technologies, a data center can save a whopping 55% of its energy costs by going green.
Moreover, the report finds that these results can be achieved using today’s technology…and may even be exceeded by future improvements to IT operations.
Boosting Efficiency…and the Bottom Line
For its 60,000 square foot Research Triangle facility, IBM will renovate an existing building with its green data center principles: bring high levels of performance with the lowest possible energy use. IBM plans to use 95% of the building’s original shell in redesigning the facility, as well as 90% of the building’s existing materials. Other green elements of the data center’s design include a free-cooling option during winter months, and an integrated cooling system for warm months that can adapt to the data center’s cooling needs in real time. IBM expects to run the Research Triangle facility at two-and-a-half to three times the computing density of an average data center, while using 50% less energy.
HP Labs, HP’s central research arm, has launched an initiative to slash data center carbon footprints by 75%. Researchers will study how energy is used and managed for the entire lifetime of a data center, from its design, synthesis, operation and end-of-life for its components. The findings will be used to develop data center technologies that achieve a massive reduction in resource consumption while maintaining performance, reliability and uptime requirements.
A number of leading firms with large data centers already have senior-level experts in place to implement energy efficiency initiatives, including Yahoo! Christina Page is Yahoo!’s Director of Climate and Energy Strategy. In an interview conducted by The Uptime Institute, Page says in order to help control the rising energy consumption of the data center industry, carbon footprint benchmarking should become an industry norm over the next two years. “I think it’s especially important because it looks like we’re going to have regulation around greenhouse gases in this country in the next several years,” says Page.
Still, there is growing demand for more high-level visibility and accountability at the executive level to facilitate what will amount to be significant cost savings, according to A.E. Feldman. The firm reports that energy efficiency is becoming a priority in the board room for the potential savings alone. When it comes to energy efficiency, CIOs are increasingly being held accountable. And that is coming from the top. In short, implementing energy efficiency controls is amounting to a cultural change.
Right now, A.E. Feldman is one step ahead of this growing trend. The firm’s Energy Team is currently working with a number of firms to identify and place qualified professionals who can design and implement strategies for maximizing energy efficiency. To learn more about these trends or related job opportunities, our lines of communication are open. Please contact A.E. Feldman’s President, Mitch Feldman and the firm’s expert recruiting team here.