Energy Efficiency Makes a Comeback

Energy efficiency is back in vogue and looks set to guide a significant portion of both hardware and software refresh cycles in the coming year.

According to the latest survey from IT solutions supplier CDW, nearly 40 percent of IT professionals now rate energy efficiency as a very important consideration when evaluating new equipment, up from 26 percent in 2009, and surging past the 34 percent mark in 2008 when data center consumption emerged as a key issue following that year’s oil shock. For the coming year, the group found that the focus on energy efficiency is likely to shift from server and storage farms to the network, with developments like new core, edge and workgroup switches, plus 10 GbE, InfiniBand and FCoE as top priorities.

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Reining in IT Energy Consumption

Many IT organizations don’t account for energy costs when formulating their IT budgets and have little visibility into the true costs.

This movement is under way despite the failure, so far, to devise an effective means of measuring efficiency. The Green Grid has done a good job of selling the Power Usage Effectiveness metric as a de facto standard, even while admitting that it provides insight into a small fraction of overall power usage. And it appears that a more accurate system is still a long way off, according to Fujitsu’s David Snelling, who told the recent DatacenterDynamics conference that until PUE is standardized and compliance tested, IT vendors will probably bend the results in all kinds of ways.

In a macro sense, though, it looks like consumption across the board is set to decline with the rise of cloud computing. According to a new analysis from Microsoft, shifting from individual data centers to regional cloud facilities could save anywhere from 30 percent to 90 percent, depending on the level of participation and the types of firms that adopt third-party cloud infrastructure. Small firms with fewer than 100 employees, for example, would probably see the most benefit because resources can be more efficiently tailored to match data requirements under a regionalized framework.

Larger firms, on the other hand, stand to gain the greatest cost benefit by improving their already substantial internal infrastructures. Brocade Communications, for example, shaved $1.5 million off its annual operating budget after it flipped the switch at a new San Jose, Calif., facility — and then pocketed an additional $2.2 million in rebates from Pacific Gas & Electric. The facility consolidated some 80,000 square feet of space down to about 2,000 racks of gear for the company’s development labs and IT operations.

In all likelihood, interest in energy efficiency will wax and wane over the years as the industry struggles to find the right mix of performance vs. consumption. The good news is that the trend lines are all pointing in the right direction. Just about everyone recognizes the need for greater efficiency — the only challenge is getting there.

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