Does Green Fatigue Spell The End Of Green IT?

Peter Judge

Data centre owners might be fed up with Green IT, but Peter Judge says they are still getting more efficient – by a different route

Several places have reported in the last week or so about “green fatigue”. The stories suggest that data centre operators no longer care about energy efficiency. So, is it all over for the Green IT movement?

I don’t think so. But there is a message in the stories of so-called green fatigue.

Data centre operators are becoming less concerned about saving energy, says the Uptime Institute. It surveys operators regularly, and this year only 50 percent of them said energy efficiency was “very important” to their company. In 2012 it was 52 percent, and in 2011 it was 58 percent.

The so-what factor

 green it fatigue tired © DarkOne ShutterstockOver the last few years, of course, the efficiency of data centres has also been changing – and for the better. A few years ago, Uptime said the average PUE (power usage effectiveness) was 2.4; it is now down to 1.8. That is a big improvement.

Why should people’s interest in efficiency be getting lower, while they are making such good progress? Many people are drawing the conclusion that operators are getting fed up with hearing about efficiency.

“I don’t really think that half the data centres in the US aren’t focused on energy efficiency, I think they’re just sick of hearing about it,”is one quote from Matt Stansberry, Uptime’s director of publications.

What’s actually happening? Well, several things, and other quotes from Stansberry make it clear Uptime is aware of them.

Firstly, there is a law of diminishing returns. You can cut a chunk off your PUE using straightforward and comparatively cheap techniques. You see a positive return quickly. To go further will mean progressively more expensive measures, which may deliver smaller benefits, or may take longer to show a return.

You can use plastic curtains to separate your hot and cold aisles and get a comparatively easy payback. Replacing your cooling units might be an investment you can’t make at this stage. It is a matter of ROI.

Secondly, the point at which your ROI is not worth pursuing varies according to your organisation. Big data centres can afford more efficient facilities because the investment is spread over more servers, and they have staff to do the work.

Is Green IT beyond your pocket?

Not surprisingly, Uptime found those with fewer than 5000 servers are not investing so much in infrastructure.

“The reason the small guys aren’t achieving better PUEs is they don’t have the staff to do the stuff a Google or a Microsoft can do,” he said. “They don’t have the financial rewards and expertise to do it.”

In fact, however, these smaller shops are actually increasing efficiency massively whether they know it or not. They are actually shifting work to bigger and more efficient data centres… but not their own data centres.

If your firm has a small data centre, that’s comparatively expensive, you may well put new stuff on the web. You may even be moving some of your older IT there.

So, do we pull the plug on the idea of  Green IT?  Of course not. But  maybe some of you might consider whether you should pull the plug on your own data center.

This article appeared in Green Data Center News

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