‘Backhanded greening’ hits Canadian data centres

Symantec Corp. released today the green-specific findings of its recent global data centre survey, which revealed that Canadian data centre administrators are slowly, but surely, adopting greener data centre strategies, even though they still are lagging in certain areas.

Conducted earlier this fall, the survey had more than 800 responses from data centre managers, with most coming from large organizations with multiple data centre holdings.

A ComputerWorld Canada special report

Canada faces a great big green IT decision

Energy conservation is still slow to catch on, according to the survey, which found that, while almost 60 per cent of Canadian respondents were “somewhat familiar” with the concept of a green data centre, only one in seven data centres globally had actually begun implementing a greener data centre structure.

Locally, Canadians were slightly ahead of the Americans and usually on par with the global average when it came to an actual implementation. Six per cent were at the trial stage, 14 per cent had begun an implementation, 12 per cent were in the process of implementation, and three per cent had completed the implementation of their green data centre.

But there are good intentions present—the survey also found that 71 per cent of global respondents were at least considering such an implementation.

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The green-related technology that seems to be making the most headway globally into the data centre is server consolidation; the survey found that 55 per cent of those who considered themselves green had begun an implementation, while even those who consider themselves “not green” have been discussing an implementation of such (86 per cent). The second-most popular green technology is virtualization; it has been implemented by 52 per cent of those who consider themselves green, and 80 per cent of the non-green respondents are considering it for the future.

While over half see environmental responsibility as a motivator for greener data centres, it is energy consumption that seems to be a near-ubiquitous concern now; the global responses show that 85 per cent of data centre managers found energy efficiency to now be at least a moderate priority in their data centre. (The remaining 15.5 per cent cite it as a critical priority.)

Canadian findings show that “backhanded greening” is in effect in Canadian data centres, where managers are, generally, attempting to reduce energy consumption, with a greener data centre only a coincidental benefit. When it comes to the numbers, the two reasons were neck and neck—32 per cent of Canadians cited a “sense of responsibility to the community” as the single most important motivator behind the green data centre, while 30 per cent said cost reduction was.

When it comes to the future of the Canadian green data centre, the most popular green technology that is being done or is in the works for the next year include server virtualization (67 per cent), replacing old equipment with more energy-efficient models (56 per cent), server consolidation (56 per cent), recycling obsolete hardware/components (51 per cent), and monitoring power consumption more carefully (37 per cent).

Though it placed fourth in the Canadian responses, power consumption monitoring is the key to a good green data centre foundation, suggests Rakesh Kumar, a research vice-president with the Gartner Group.

“In order to deal with (becoming a greener data centre), you need good quantifiable data,” he said. “But there is a very limited number of performance monitoring software implementations, or the tools aren’t even mature enough, there is a lack of dialogue between the different sides of the business, and a lack of information (on the energy efficiency of their products) from the vendors.”

Currently, fewer than one in five Canadian respondents said they purchase their own power for their data centres, and they average an energy consumption check-up once a year (the global average is twice a year). And, at this time, 39 per cent of Canadian respondents said they had no plans to start using power management products, and about one-third of Canadian respondents rated their vendor’s energy efficiency as either somewhat or very important.

Yet the survey also found that 50 per cent of Canadian data centre administrators claim to advocate green policies at their companies, although many Canadian data centre administrators also said that they felt that green initiatives were a part of “broader corporate policy positions and not necessarily an IT issue,” according to the survey. This is common in the enterprise, according to Kumar, who suggested an energy chargeback system or full itemized billing as a way to get a better handle on energy consumption. Said Kumar: “There is miscommunication between IT, corporate facilities, and operations managers, so there is a huge amount of work to be done.”

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