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Data Center Energy: Information Resources Emerge

Data center managers are increasingly concerned about the energy footprint of their operations. Power consumption, cooling demand, and physical space are at or near maxed-out levels. Several resources are emerging to provide information about shrinking the footprint and reducing the energy-related risks in data centers.

The global information and communications technology industry accounts for approximately 2 percent of global CO2 emissions, said a Gartner report released earlier in 2007. That's just one side of the picture. Business travel and commuting are much bigger contributors. Green IT has solutions, but -- you guessed it -- they put more pressure on the IT infrastructure.

Ideas are flowing, many of them quite good. Keeping up with trends is a challenge. These new information sources are emerging to help:

Mission Critical is a new magazine that came out of the bifurcated Energy & Power Management. The new magazine's initial issue included descriptions of high-performance data centers, examined power reliability problems, and covered issues affecting the IT industry. (The other off-shoot of that division is Sustainable Facility magazine.)

ASHRAE will present a few sessions on data center energy use at its conference next month. Expect to see more on the subject, especially with regard to cooling, in ASHRAE's new magazine, High Performance Buildings. The conference sessions will take place on January 20-23, 2007 at ASHRAE’s 2008 Winter Meeting (known as AHR Expo) in New York.

On the other, more independent, end of the media scale are bloggers like Deborah Grove. She started her green IT blog in early 2007 and in November did a couple of lengthy write-ups from the Gartner data center conference. See also: her list of other blogs on the subject.

Just like reporters everywhere are now bloggers, the IT media are gradually becoming energy wonks. CNet, after two years of out-of-place articles about biodiesel and the electric grid, wouldn't miss the opportunity to write (and blog) about green data centers. A unique feature at ZD Net is their "At the whiteboard" talking head series, which now includes a video about "greening the data center." Very basic for its audience of data center managers, but watch for more depth from the tech pubs in this area in the coming year.

For IT vendors, the interest in green is a goldmine. Data center operations and procurement folks are more knowledgeable about energy density issues than you might guess. But a 2007 Forrester survey revealed that most are unaware of vendors' efforts to design and market more environmentally responsible products and services.

Unaware, or just dismissive? Marketing messages from most hardware and software vendors have been falling on deaf ears. Tech suppliers will find a receptive audience for more "green" marketing, as long as it's well substantiated and fine-tuned for the tech audience.

One challenge for green IT is a lack of standards. A group of companies have formed The Green Grid to develop models, metrics and best practices to help data center managers evaluate and improve their performance. IBM, Dell, AMD, Microsoft, HP and Sun are among the 100 companies in the consortium.

Gartner criticized the nascent organization for being too narrow in scope and vendor centric. Will the analyst firms launch similar initiatives in 2008?