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Do IT Pros Care About Green Data Centers?

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Amazon is building a wind farm. Apple has tens of megawatts of solar power. Google builds in Nordic countries and sources power from hydroelectric facilities. Other providers started giving out Renewable Energy Credits to cover customers’ electric costs (and they aren’t the only ones buying RECs and PPAs—but this blog post isn’t just about Green House Data).

Despite the recent trend of data center operators going green, does the IT industry really care about the environmental footprint of their data center? According to our recent survey results, the answer is a resounding…maybe.

We polled 166 IT professionals, from system administrators to the CTO. All but two had input into IT and infrastructure decision-making at their company. What they had to say was surprising. In a nutshell, it makes smart business sense to have a green data center, because it saves on operating costs. Whether IT departments consider energy efficiency or sustainability when evaluating service providers is up for debate.

Tip: the charts and graphs below are interactive. Mouse over for full labels and percentages.


Do Companies Go Green with Their Own IT?

Survey respondents reported many ways in which their own companies go green, with 65% recycling in the office, 56% recycling electronics, and 28% metering their energy use.

Most IT professionals have big data center plans for the next three years. Data center goals by 2018 include:

For all these IT shops who are looking for hybrid/public cloud, colocation, or consolidation, only 28% said they choose green service providers. But when asked to rate “green” factors when evaluating a service provider, very few factors played an important role.

Less than 10% of IT professionals consider any green factor a primary focus when evaluating a service provider. However, 36% think cooling design is “very important”, and 33% believe total energy consumption is the same. Two thirds of IT pros said overall environmental impact is either a “minor consideration” or “low priority but important”.

Surprisingly, only 16% of respondents said PUE was very important when choosing a provider. A full ¼ of IT professionals think PUE is “not at all important”. Only 20% said “green technology investments outside of renewable energy” were very important.

The key takeaway? Organizations are looking to data center providers to deliver cost savings and reliability. If energy efficiency is how they do it, that’s great. But the carbon footprint of a service provider is pretty low on the priority scale.


Is the Cloud Making IT More Green?

67% of IT professionals reported that the cloud is making enterprise computing more environmentally friendly, while 33% said it the cloud wasn’t any greener than traditional infrastructure.

The reasons behind this were varied, with respondents citing the efficiency gains of consolidation and virtualization, the inefficiencies of legacy data centers, and lower energy use at an enterprise level as reasons why the cloud was greener. On the flip side, some said that the cloud really just redistributes the same energy and computing workloads.


Will the Data Center Industry Be More Sustainable by 2018?

When asked how the industry perceives efficiency and sustainability, 46% said they were important only for business or cost reasons, while 36% reported they were important for both business and environmental reasons. 10% said efficiency and sustainability were not widespread concerns in the data center industry—which seems a little crazy, if you ask us. The remaining 8% said going green was for Corporate Sustainability or environmental reasons only.

For our final question, we asked how widespread new data center efficiency measures will be by 2018.

PDU and power supply improvements, real time power management, and big data analysis were popular, with around ¼ of IT professionals reporting they would be prevalent in 80% of all data centers.

Most believed that just 10-40% of data center facilities would take additional energy efficiency measures in the next three years. Over half of respondents said 10-40% of facilities would have onsite renewable energy generation by 2018. Liquid cooling, DCIM, and free cooling were all seen as likely additions to 10-40% of data centers.

An unexpected amount of answers predicted higher cabinet density and increased cold row temperatures—two trends that have already seen widespread adoption—would only reach 10% of data centers by 2018. 50% said cabinets would be more dense in only 1/10 of data centers, and 57% said the cold row temp would increase in only 1/10 of data centers. We would anticipate these two efficiency trends to be closer to the 80% mark by 2018, especially as companies consolidate their in-house data centers and colocate or go hybrid.

Efficiency Remains an Advantage, Even if it Doesn't Always Enter Into Decision-Making

In the end, IT professionals left us with some comments regarding where they see efficiency and sustainability in the data center industry. Some memorable insights included:

The overall message delivered by the survey results seems to be that green data centers will become more important in the future. But how fast we’ll get there as an industry? That remains to be seen, and even the most popular efficiency measures won’t be adopted by the majority of data centers in the next few years.

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