Data Centers In Transition: Controlling Power, Cooling Costs

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Data center owners and providers cited other technologies to help cut power consumption.

Snider said new technologies let customers dial down their server processing rates, and turning them off completely when customers need less performance. "If you turn down the power to 60 percent, that a 40-percent energy saving," he said. "Software combined with monitoring tools can be used to dial back performance."

Jim Wolford, owner and CEO of Atomic Data, a Minneapolis provider of data center services from facilities leased from large carriers, said that for some of his customers, dropping a simple item like a heavy plastic supermarket backroom divider into a cold aisle to separate hot and cold air can cut air conditioning costs by 7 percent.

To Go "Green" Or Not

While reducing power consumption helps cut a company's carbon footprint, data center customers may or may not feel a need to present a "green" face to the public.

For a big company like Google, which according to the New York Times study uses about 1.9 billion kWh, or about 0.8 percent of all the world's data center power consumption, in its own data centers, being seen as "green" is important.

Greenpeace, in a reported it issued in April, wrote that Google is among the top two users of clean, alternative energy, including wind power, solar energy, hydropower, bioenergy, geothermal power, and marine or ocean wave power, in its data centers.

But for smaller companies, the focus is on any activities which can cut their own costs and not on helping data centers be "green," Duckett said.

"SMBs rarely if ever talk 'green,'" he said. "But Fortune-500 companies typically like to work with providers who meet their corporate goals. Most of them have 'green' initiatives. They look at data center operations, and ask what we are doing to stay efficient."

Wolford said customers' shifts towards virtualization and away from colocating hardware means that his company's focus is moving away from helping customers save power to cutting his own power consumption.

"We look at the greening of the data center, but for us it's an internal issue," he said. "We are looking at controlling our costs, not at helping customers control costs. The customers in this case don't care about power consumption as much. We do."


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