Ignore the drama – do what’s right for your data center by Doug Mohney
Hot on the heels of the New York Times expose’ of data center evils last week comes a Pike Research $45 billion prediction by 2016 for green data centers. If you want to pick a side, be my guest, but don’t use either to plot your own fate in the data center world.
“The Cloud Factories” by James Glanz ran down data centers for being wasteful due to a variety of factors, including conservative estimates on compute needs, UPS backup, and inefficient power distribution and servers – issues that are being dealt with by leveraging virtualization (less servers) and better new-build facility designs combining better electrical design, utilizing climate-based (i.e. “Free”) cooling, and pushing server manufacturers to make efficient CPU-per-watt hardware.
Diesel generators are dirty and noisy, but we’re stuck with them as a near term solution for emergency power generation. Longer term, biodiesel offers a drop-in partial fix while Bloom Energy’s fuel cell solution may offer a more holistic fix If the company can push the price down.
Pike Researcher’s happy numbers predict a $17.1 billion market for green data centers today to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 28 percent to accumulate to $45.4 billion by 2016. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of 5 year projections – if they’re so hot, the U.S. should already either already be out of the Great Recession or preparing for a financial doomsday with its looming federal budget cuts… assuming you’ve picked the right set of numbers.
Perhaps the best example of predictions-not-correct is to look at the U.S. energy picture today as compared to, say 5 years ago. The U.S. appeared to be dependent upon decreasing supplies of oil with increasing prices. In 2012, a boom in natural gas and even oil production has manufacturers planning to bring back production because gas is relatively cheap and plentiful.
If you’re running a green data center, your goal should be to be environmentally “friendly” as possible – whatever that means this day of the week – and make a profit. If you don’t make a profit, all the green goodness in the world can’t keep you in business.
However, part of making a profit is being as efficient as possible with managing major operational expenses. Power and water are operational expenses where you can be more efficient to save money while also meeting a greater goal to be eco-good.
And if you’ve got a capital project to improve energy efficiency, say that big HVAC replacement that will provide a return on investment in a couple of years, now’s the time to look at finding the money to do it. Interest rates are at an all-time low and are expected to stay that way for at least the next three years. If you need to borrow money for capital improvements, I feel fairly confident in saying it won’t get much better than the rates available over the next 12 months. If your company has available capital, better yet if you can demonstrate a reasonable return on investment since that money is now gathering dust at sub-percent interest rates at the bank.
I guess my advice is best summed up by borrowing the old phrase of “Think globally, act locally.” It’s great to think about helping the planet out, but you have to make and leverage the money you have access to locally in order to consistently contribute to the greater good.