The Greening of IT: Successes, Failures, and the Future?

The Uptime Institute uploaded an interesting discussion.

It is the keynote panel discussion from Uptime Institute Symposium 2011, were George Goodman (Climate Savers Computing Initiative), Jon Haas (The Green Grid), KC Mares (Silicon Valley Leadership Group), Bruce Myatt (Critical Facilities Round Table), and Pitt Turner (Uptime Institute) join Andy Lawrence (The 451 Group) to discuss how much the industry has improved its sustainability performance in the past three years and where it should go next.

And as usual the discussion is focussing on the supply side (data center providers), technology and energy measurements.

According to the common view, Green IT comes down to implementing technical measures. The idea is that, given more efficient power usage of servers, storage and network components, virtualization, better power and cooling management in data centers, the problems can be solved. But is this really true? The rea-son IT is not green at this moment is at least as much due to perverse incentives. Green IT is about power and money, about raising barriers to trade, segmenting markets and differentiating products. Many of the problems can be explained better and convincingly using the language of economics: supply chains, asymmetric information, moral hazard, switching and transaction costs and innovation. Green IT is not a technical problem, but an economical problem to be solved. That is the reason that Greening IT is difficult.

Download the book Greening IT at to get a better grip and understanding on these subjects.

Greener IT Can Form a Solid Base For a Low-Carbon Society

Greening ITPrecisely a year a go we launched  the book Greening IT in print and online (free to download). And if I may say so, the book is still worth the effort of reading.

The book aims at promoting awareness of the potential of Greening IT, such as Smart Grid, Cloud Computing, Thin Clients and Greening Supply Chains. The chapter “Why Green IT is Hard – An Economic Perspective” is my contribution to this book. See Greening IT and read the following press release.

Press release Greening IT

Information Technology holds a great potential in making society greener. Information Technology will, if we use it wisely, lead the way to resource efficiency, energy savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions – taking us to the Low-Carbon Society.

The IT sector itself, responsible for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, can get greener by focusing on energy efficiency and better technologies – we call this Green IT. Yet, IT also has the potential to reduce the remaining 98% of emissions from other sectors of the economy – by optimising resource use and saving energy etc. We call this the process of Greening IT. IT can provide the technological fixes we need to reduce a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors of society and obtain a rapid stabilisation of global emissions. There is no other sector where the opportunities for greenhouse gas emission reductions, through the services provided, holds such a potential as the IT industry”, says Adrian Sobotta, president of the Greening IT Initiative,   Founding Editor and author of the book.

In her foreword to the book, European Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard writes: “All sectors of the economy will need to contribute…, and it is clear that information and communication technologies (ICTs) have a key role to play. ICTs are increasingly recognised as important enablers of the low-carbon transition. They offer significant potential – much of it presently untapped – to mitigate our emissions. This book focuses on this fundamental role which ICTs play in the transition to a low-carbon society.”

The book aims at promoting awareness of the potential of Greening IT, such as Smart Grid, Cloud Computing and thin clients. It is the result of an internationally collaborative, non-profit making, Creative Commons-licensed effort – to promote greening IT.

There is no single perfect solution; Green IT is not a silver bullet. But already today, we have a number of solutions ready to do their part of the work in greening society. And enough proven solutions and implementations for us to argue not only that IT has gone green, but also that IT is a potent enabler of greenhouse gas emission reductions”, says Adrian Sobotta.

It is clear that the messages in the book put a lot of faith into technologies. Yet, technologies will not stand alone in this immense task that lies before us. “Technology will take us only so far. Changing human behaviour and consumption patterns is the only real solution in the longer-term perspective”, continues Adrian Sobotta. IT may support this task, by confronting us with our real-time consumption – for instance through Smart Grid and Smart Meters – thereby forcing some of us to realise our impact.

But technologies, such as Green Information Technologies, are not going to disperse themselves. Before betting on new technologies, we need to establish long-term security of investments. And the only way to do this is to have an agreed long-term set of policy decisions that create the right incentives to promote the development we need.

Data centers: the men in the basement get noticed

“Data centers are attracting the attention of more CEOs and CFOs, not just for their energy use, but also because of the cost of facilities and the digital infrastructure – the entire system by which companies satisfy their computing needs,” said Martin McCarthy, Executive Chairman of Uptime Institute and CEO of The 451 Group at the Uptime Institute Symposium 2011.

(c) 5th Wave

Although IT infrastructure delivers no direct business value, much of the business value is created in business processes that depend upon a solid and stable IT infrastructure. With an IT infrastructure in place, you can run applications, but they can’t deliver any value without the physical IT infrastructure of server, storage, network components and data center facilities. So it is good news that the men in the basement get noticed by senior management.

At the symposium some interesting figures of the Uptime data center industry survey were presented:

  • 36% of data center facilities would run out of space, power or cooling in 2011-2012.
  • Less than 20% of respondents’ IT departments pay the data center power bill.
  • 73% of respondents said their facilities or real estate department pays the data-center power bill.
  • 8% didn’t know who pays the data-center power bill.
  • The most widely used energy efficiency improvement techniques, according to the Uptime survey, are server virtualization, used by 82% of respondents; hot aisle/cold aisle containment, used by 77% ; and power monitoring and measurement, used by 67% .
  • 57% of the respondents have raised the inlet temperatures on chillers, basically running their data centers at higher temperature
  • 46% of the respondents are using variable speed drives, which allow cooling fans to adjust their speed depending on the temperature.

For energy usage the question “Who is responsible, who feels the pain and take action ?” is still waiting for a definite answer. The current general financial structure  makes it far more difficult to drive data center energy efficiency to the right directions. It is better that the IT department should pay the energy bill that would give a real incentive to get more effective and efficient.

See also the blog entry “IT energy efficiency spark accounting debate …”.

Aging servers are big energy consumers in the data center

“The most wasteful energy consumers in data centers (especially in low-PUE data centers) are inefficient servers” according to Winston Saunders. He placed a very interesting blog on  “The Server Room Blog” of Intel.

As showed in the figure this data center case shows that in this particular data center servers older than 2007 consume 60% of the energy, but contribute only an estimated 4% of the compute capability.

William Carter, Elephant in Data Center

Based on this issue and the fact that servers efficiency closely followed Moore’s law he propose a new data center metric, the Server Usage Effectiveness or SUE metric.


With an age of 0 years SUE sets Today = 1.0. With an age of 3 years SUE sets 2.8, which implies that you have approximately 2.8 times the number of servers you actually need (based on current data center productivity and workload).

The blog goes even one step further by combining SUE with PUE and defining the Total data center Usage Effectiveness,


This is a very interesting pragmatic approach to improve the energy consumption and energy efficiency of the data center. The power supply to the IT infrastructure (servers, storage and network) in a data center is not very effective. There is a tremendous loss in this energy supply chain (starting from power station, on to power grid, UPS, PDU, …) so that finally only a couple of percent of the original energy (power plant) is actual used for data processing. The only way to get quick results is to start on the demand side. This part of the infrastructure (IT equipment) is relatively easy to the change (months instead of years for components upstream in this energy supply chain). And last but not least a small result and the end of the chain gives a huge result upstream.

Just as for the PUE a first-order approximation is just right to find the “low hanging fruit”. I was even wondering if you could simplify things by just using the average age of servers instead of making cohort statistics as showed in the blog.

As for  power consumption of servers versus other IT equipment (storage and network devices). In the EPA Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency it is suggested that, servers will on average account for about 75 percent of total IT equipment energy use, storage devices will account for around 15 percent, and network equipment will account for around 10 percent.

I’m very interested in the follow up of the blog entry of Saunders.

Marilyn Monroe inspires data center builders

Never thought that Marilyn Monroe with the iconic image in the film ‘The Seven Year Itch’, where Monroe is standing on a subway grate as her dress is blown above her knees by a passing train, would give inspiration to engineers to design a new type of data center.

Last week at the Data Centers Europe 2011 event in Nice, Nicolas Aubé from Marilyn Celeste, proposed a new concept of building a more energy efficient data center with optimal usage of space, especially in an urban environment.

Celeste is a French internet service provider. In the Marilyn project they designed a vertical data center with no technical floors and ceilings but just metal grid floors for up and down coming air. Air is contained by using cold and warm corridors where the corridors are joined one above each other to create air columns. Cold air pressure is put below the lowest floor and warm air is evacuated by the top depending on weather conditions. All the cables run on the top of racks. Power usage is to be measured in each of the 1200 power distribution cables so that users can be invoiced on their actual power consumption.

Monroe data center floor and aisle construction

There are three modus operandi.

  • Cold mode: if the outside temp is less than 23 C (80% of the time) then there is a 100% direct free cooling and hot air evacuation on the roof and heat recycling for offices.
  • Hot mode: if the outside temperature is more then 35 C or the air is very dry (5% of the time) then the air is 100% recycled and air conditioned.
  • Mixed mode: for the other cases a combination of outside air and air conditioning is used in combination with hot air evacuation.

All is to be managed by automatic air flow management.

Monroe data center airflow

Delivery of this facility, located at Cité Descartes (Paris) is estimated on september 2011.

Data Centres Europe 2011 Nice

Data Centres Europe 2011Last week I attended Datacentres Europe 2011 that was held at 5-6 May 2011 in Acropolis, Nice, France and organized by Broadgroup. In its seventh edition, this European summit is for senior IT executives, analysts and vendors to network, discuss and learn about the latest developments in data centers. A great event, featuring 85 speakers with 550 delegates from about 30 countries.

In his opening address Aaron Davis of Schneider Electric stated that data centers are vital to tackling environmental issues. He said that “We must decouple our growth from our energy consumption.” Mr Davis also said that, by centralising data processing, data centres were increasing energy-efficiency. In coming years, technology had to decrease its carbon impact by a factor of 10 to offset the effects of population growth.  Aaron Davis ended with the statement that “Data centers will be a major part of the next stage of human evolution.”

In the presentations and the panel discussions there was much emphasis on the following topics:

  • Energy consumption, Sustainability and Green in the Data Center
  • Cloud computing and the impact on Data Centers
  • Data Center business models
  • How to build flexible, scalable and modular Data Centers

Like last year a lot of speakers made a note or remark in the site line that there are still gaps between IT and Site  infrastructure people and that it is mandatory that those groups are aligned.

Also some explicit remarks were made about the consequences of the enormous growth in mobile/handheld devices such as smart phones, tablets and the lot. Referring to the fact that Metcalfe’s law states that the value of a communication network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2). Therefore the value of these devices for people will continue to rise and therefore also the need and usage of these devices. The data center will act as the man in the middle, because all lines of the network comes together in the data center. This will give an enormous rise in the demand for data centers.

Some speakers made the observation of the mutual interest between data centers and the smart grid a topic that will certainly get more attention in nearby future.

Notable missing discussions were e-waste  and data center life cycle management a form of Energy Accounting, the approach of measuring and analyzing energy consumption of the total
life cycle from the data center conception, through design and manufacture, to service and disposal.

The first day of the conference also the European Commission Code Of Conduct Special Awards were announced by Paolo Bertoldi of the European Commission Directorate General Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability. The European Commission’s Code of Conduct (COC) on Data Centers Energy Efficiency is a voluntary code that organisations can endorse, committing them to implement measures to reduce energy consumption. The code is now established as the definitive industry practice for reducing carbon emissions by Data Centers and has been widely adopted with more than 122 endorsers.

As follow up the Data Centres Europe 2011 Awards will be hosted the second of June at the Gibson Hall in the City of London.

Greenqloud propose green PUE

greenqloudEarlier this year I wrote in the blog entry “Yet another data center performance energy metric” about the initiative of the Japan’s Green IT Promotion Council (JGIPC) to improve on PUE with its own metric: the data center performance per energy (DPPE).  One of the important things the JGIPC energy metric takes into account in comparison with the PUE metric is that they look at the quality of energy or in other words how much green energy is used. A good data center energy metric should not handle energy efficiency only,  a good metric must also address the quality of the energy that is being used.

Last week, on the Power and Cooling conference in London, Eirikur Hrafnsson CEO of greenqloud held a provocative presentation on this matter. According to him many times the PUE metric is misused for green marketing or “green washing”. He came up with an alternative definition of the PUE metric to better see which data centers are truly green in the sense that they indirectly cause the least amount of CO2 to be emitted by their use of dirty or clean energy.

The definition for the GPUE is as follow:


G is the Green factor and it is a simple calculated value:

G = Weighed Sum of energy sources and their life cycle Kg CO2/KWh

G =∑( %EnergySource x ( 1 + weight) )

An example:

PUE= 1.20 and the energy sources used are 50% Coal and 50% Hydro.
G = 0.5*(1+1.050) + 0.5*(1+0.013)
G = 1.531, GPUE = 1.84

Kg CO2 per usable KWh = (G-1) x PUE = 0.64 Kg

The weights are taken from the 2008 Sovacool Study.

The GPUE metric is a simple and pragmatic enhancement of the current PUE metric and service its goal to get rid of the distort green view you get from the current PUE.

Take a look at the greenqloud blog.