Data centres that require energy to run servers and provide cooling account for almost a quarter of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from information and communications technology (ICT). This information comes from Gartner after an April estimate that the ICT industry produces 2% of all global carbon emissions, placing it on a par with the aviation industry.
Speaking ahead of Gartner's Data Centre Summit this month, Rakesh Kumar, research vice-president at Gartner, says: "Although the figure compares favourably with the 40% of emissions from PCs and monitors, it is much more concentrated and rising more quickly.
"Not enough attention has been paid to reducing the data centres carbon emissions. Organisations should aim to keep their data centre carbon emissions constant. This will help curb excessive data centre growth and act as a counterbalance to deploying energy-inefficient hardware.
"Data centres account for such a large portion of ICT carbon emissions for three main reasons," he adds. "There is a lack of floor-space, a failure to house high-density servers and increased power consumption and heat generation.
"These three issues will affect the cost of running a data centre. For example, Gartner predicts energy consumption of microprocessors alone will rise for the next ten years."
Most organisations have grown their infrastructure (servers, storage and networks) considerably during the past three years. While the volume growth of these machines is set to rise annually for the next five years, a general lack of new data centre builds during the past seven years means that quality data-centre floor space is limited.
Further, traditional data centres have been built to a facility's design specification, which struggles to house the current (and future) generation of high-density servers. In addition, the type of server being developed will need more power and will generate more heat; therefore, it will need better cooling.
"As a result of these dynamics, we predict that energy management will become a significant issue in procuring new hardware and running data centres," Kumar adds.
To reverse the situation, Kumar offers five practical guidelines to CIOs and data centre leaders on power management:
* Align the IT organisation with corporate facilities groups. Understand the working practices, documented guidelines and corporate policies of corporate facilities groups. This will help to establish what is appropriate for specific problems, such as cooling.
* Baseline current energy use and costs, and model future increases Establish financial models for gaining a granular picture of energy costs to understand where power goes (servers, cooling, UPS or power distribution) and how much it costs.
* Establish a sustainable IT expert group. From an IT perspective, a small team (or, initially, an individual) needs to take ownership of the IT-related environmental issues and establish rules of engagement for making decisions, such server selection or data centre design.
* Evaluate future technologies. These will include facilities-type of solutions and energy software management tools for the office environment.
* Develop a green procurement programme. Get started on green IT procurement by adopting the environmental requirements set out by long-established, government-backed environmental labelling bodies.