Choosing the right projects for green data centers

The Wall Street Journal earlier this month published an interesting article written by Dr. Robert Plant from the University of Miami, which looked at actions that companies can take to make their data center greener. Essentially, he tries to help companies make the best choice for their data centre by categorizing green data centre projects into four types: at one end the easy-to-implement projects, and at the other the expensive distractions that they should avoid.

1. No-brainers: technologies that are commodities that can have an immediate impact on data center emissions and power consumption, such as virtualization or technology that powers down servers not in use.

2. Promising but pricey: green technology that is cutting edge that may give them an edge on rivals, but would possibly exposed them as an early adopter. Projects like these are more of a risk and include technologies such as data center management software.

3. Business opportunities: projects that can offer the company a potential new revenue stream, such as building its own secure and green data center and letting out space to other rivals. Projects such as these obviously require proper business planning and could fail if they deliver on that front.

4. Distractions: blue-sky projects that sound great in the press, but don't necessarily deliver, such as using wave power to drive their data centers. Plant says that although larger companies may be able to attract customers with initiatives such as these, smaller ones should stay well clear.

Basically the message from Dr Plant for most companies is to focus on the quick wins with the no brainer projects. The key is for enterprises to correctly identify the project category and properly analyze any risk.

Certainly virtualization projects continue to be a big contributor towards cutting data center emissions. And there is still plenty of room for growth, with Gartner estimating that currently only 16% of workloads currently run on virtual machines. It says that by 2012, around half of server workloads will be virtualized - that will make a substantial dent in emissions.

Read about more 'no-brainer' projects to green your data centre in our top tips article on the Orange Business Live blog.

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.