Looking Towards the Post Green Era - by Doug Moheny
This week I've seen announcements for everything from a "green" tape server solution to Big Iron mainframes. If nearly everyone is green, then the concept of green has been diluted and is just another item on the checklist. To borrow a line from BB King, "The thrill is gone."
Stakeholders in the Green Data Center world need to rapidly evolve and clarify their messaging, otherwise they are going to get lost in the ever-growing pile of green snow being shoveled out by the PR and marketing wonks. You know how this conversation goes. C-level executive: "Have we used green this month?" Lower-level flunky: "Yes, we've incorporated it into 25 percent of our press releases, have a dedicated web page up touting our green-creds, and you'll find green sprinkled into your speech at the Chamber of Commerce next week."
Practices in the Post-Green Era will revolve around the themes of rightsizing, sustainability, and carbon-footprint. Too many companies are happy about bragging about how they are building more green data centers rather than consolidating operations through virtualization and eliminating excessive data storage, outsourcing when they can, and building from scratch only as a last and final resort.
To me, sustainability is an on-going process, doing as much as you can with the data center you have to make it more energy efficient and eco-friendly. Sooner or later, a data center is going to reach a relative plateau as to energy efficient it can become, so that will mean looking at the corporate value cost-benefit trades for moving to a smaller carbon footprint, such as solar, wind, and geothermal; while not perfect, Bloom's energy server can also play a role.
Rightsizing will come to fruition in short order because it's a cost-driven principle; already federal and state governments are on the bandwagon to get most optimized usage of existing resources because there's a realization that they have overbuilt capacity floating around and just burning kilowatts.
Sustainability will be a tougher battle. Companies will easily opt to choose a sustainable path if it breaks even or saves money, but few will go that route if it costs a lot more.
The toughest battle revolves around carbon footprint. Some companies are electing to purchase clean or cleaner energy, but in most cases, they are paying a premium unless there are other sweeteners involved. Outsourcing operations to a carbon-clean data center makes sense if there are cost savings tied in. Similarly, Bloom Energy has found attractors because in certain circumstances it can save money and lower carbon footprint.