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Green Data Centers in 2018: How Has Industry Opinion Shifted?

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As we release our 2017 Sustainability Report, we wanted to see how the industry opinion on green data centers may have shifted over the years.

Back in late 2014/early 2015, Green House Data put out a survey for data center workers asking for their opinions on green data centers. At that time, the results showed that most industry insiders thought energy efficiency and sustainability was most important for the bottom line, rather than for Corporate Social Responsibility. It did not appear that very many sought out green service providers specifically.

We recently sent out a follow up survey. Our sample size increased from 166 to 789. 10% of the respondents did not have input into their IT and infrastructure decision making, leaving 710 IT decision makers answering our questions.

Nearly ¼ of all respondents worked in the IT industry, with another 20% coming from Healthcare, and Finance wrapping up the top three industries with 10%.

The results were surprising, to say the least.


In-House Efforts Towards Green Computing

This was perhaps the largest backslide compared to 2015. Individual organizations were less likely overall to make green choices for their own infrastructure EXCEPT when choosing service providers.

Some 36% of survey respondents chose green service providers, an 8% increase over 2015. 60% recycled electronics, another increase of 4% over 2015. Companies were only 1% more likely to use free cooling. And while slightly more people reported using direct on-site renewable energy generation, there were also less people purchasing Renewable Energy Credits.

Perhaps what was most surprising about this question is an 8% reduction in the number of offices that recycle. Come on, guys!

green IT measures taken

In the meantime, data center goals in the next three years remain much the same. IT professionals report that by 2021:

IT goals over the next three years

As stated above, 36% of survey respondents look for green-leaning service providers. That increase held up to further scrutiny, as green factors became signifacantly more likely to be considered “Very Important” when looking for a service provider.

In 2015, a full 25% of IT professionals said data center PUE was “Not At All Important,” but today only 12% agree. More people found the Total Energy Consumption to be Very Important, too.

This marks a demonstrable shift in attitude, with green factors across the board shifting into a more important decision maker when evaluating a service provider.

Which green factors are important when choosing an IT service provider?

How Is the Cloud Affecting Green IT?

One of our most interesting questions had the most dramatic swing of any statistic in the survey. When asked if the move to cloud computing is improving the environmental impact of enterprise computing overall, 86% of respondents said yes.

Is the move to cloud making IT greener?

Compare that to 2015, when only 67% said yes, and you’ll see that more of the industry now believes the cloud is making enterprise IT more environmentally friendly. Today, only 14% claimed that the cloud was not any greener than traditional data centers.

The reasons given now overwhelmingly backed the concept of efficiencies at scale, with a smaller overall footprint for the same or greater amount of compute power. The few holdouts stated that in the end, you’re still facing an ever-increasing amount of demand for computing power, so the ultimate result is in fact a higher footprint.

How Does the Industry Perceive Sustainability?

Finally, we asked our IT pros about how the industry perceives energy efficiency and sustainability. Far more people now believe that it is important for both business AND the environment (50% of respondents, a 14% increase over 2015). This marks a shift towards greener attitudes all around.

More people also believe that they are not widespread concerns in the industry at all — 15% compared to 10% in 2015. This jump was much smaller than the increase in “Important for both business and CSR reasons,” though.

How is energy efficiency and sustainability perceived in the data center industry

It seems as though the industry as a whole has a less cynical view towards efficiency and sustainability in 2018. Rather than simply believing green data center practices are only important for the bottom line (in 2015, 47% said green efforts were only important for business and cost saving reasons), IT professionals see the value in companies doing the right thing for the environment as well.

IT professionals aren’t sure about a realistic timeline for efficiency measures to be implemented, however. When we asked which efficiency measures will be widely implemented within the next three years, the timeline expanded compared to 2015.

Here’s what survey respondents said about what to expect from data center operators by 2021:

Respondents thought that Increased Cold Row Temperatures would definitely hit more facilities, an increase over 2015. Other measures with an increased likelihood of occurring were Real Time Power Management (23% increase for the 40-80% facility tier compared to 2015), a sign of confidence in DCIM technologies; as well as a surprising 8% increase in onsite renewables for 40-80% of facilities and 6% increase in onsite renewables for 80% of facilities by 2021.

Overall it appears that progress has not been as speedy as anticipated — and that it will remain that way for the next few years. Green measures will continue to proliferate, but they may not reach the widespread adoption that many thought in 2015.


Efficiency Is Not As Widespread As Hoped, But Has Become More of a Competitive Advantage

Taken as a whole, our survey update reveals that IT pros are keen on green data center practices and believe that the shift to the cloud is reducing the environmental footprint of enterprise computing. They are more likely to seek out green data center service providers, but they also believe that less facilities will make the investments necessary to get there.

As the industry continues to face M&A turmoil and ever-increasing demand for more power and space, we’ll see how the commitment to green practices continues to shift and evolve.

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