There are many options for increasing energy efficiency, but the bottom line remains a primary concern for most companies. That was the consensus of a panel at the Adaptive Xchange conference.
The panel, that included Steve Andreano of Cisco, Christian Belady of Microsoft, Dr. Albert Esser of Dell, Jack Pouchet of Emerson Network Power and Rich Tabler of VMware, addressed energy use in data centers, under the theme of "Providing Strategies for Improving Efficiency and Cutting Energy Costs in Your Data Center."
Tabler, a vice president in the office of the CIO for VMware, said virtualization and consolidation are the best things companies can do to reduce consumption. He used as example a client in Australia, who pared 1,900 servers down to 90 and a client in the United States that was able to reduce their physical server needs to 80 from 1,000 and saved $500,000 in doing so.
Andreano, Cisco's data center architect, for advanced data center technology, talked about Cisco's company-wide efforts in virtualization, resulting in $40-50 million in energy savings over the last four years. He said efficient cooling -- a topic brought up in Liebert President Bob Bauer's keynote earlier in the conference -- was a particular problem for Cisco clients. "When we look at our customer's data centers, we find in a majority of cases cooling is over-provisioned and is not effective because of the way it's being handled.
Belady, Microsoft's principle power and cooling architect, global foundation services, said he's a strong proponent of measuring efficiency. "If we don't measure it we can't improve it," he said. Microsoft is also actively hiring experts in the area of efficiency improvements, and made the point of differentiating between efficiency and reduction of energy consumption.
"Efficiency is aligned with cost reduction," he said. "What's driving this growth is the cost of computation is going down." He said a problem arises when cost goes down -- demand goes up. "I think efficiency is a good thing, but the question I always have is, do you want efficiency or do you want the [energy] footprint to go down?" The issue requires two different approaches, he said.
The panelists also took time to answer a question about CIOs and their dedication to improving energy efficiency. "Efficiency is important, but you have to do it without compromise, you have to run the business -- that's what keeps the light on," said Pouchet, director of energy initiatives at Emerson. Tabler said the response changes based on location at home and abroad, where some power alternatives are more viable or some electrical infrastructures are more fragile.
Andreano agreed, relating a story about a customer's CIO whose number one issue is power and cooling issues. "Not because of the budget but because in their location they've been told by the power company they can't get any additional feeds."
Those comments resonated with Robin Frazier, VP of Instant Access Networks, based in Frostburg, Maryland. "The discussion was realistic in that business are going to be looking at the bottom line," she said. "But we're doing research and development for renewable energy integrated with microgrids." These microgrids can serve as a backup in case the larger grid goes down, she said. "Right now, renewable energy doesn't cut it on affordability," she argued. "There need to be incentives."
Perhaps Belady summed it up best, following comments from Pouchet regarding corporate philosophies leading the charge toward green thinking. "The bottom line is, we all have good intentions," he said. "But it's all about doing it."