Rackspace: a realistic green pioneer

The pace of green datacentre change: edging ahead but not racing

How can existing SME and department datacentre owners best pursue power-efficiency?

They can offload their datacentre burden onto us and share in the resources we provide for all our customers. Customers will find it very difficult to green their own datacentres, to get IT and facilities in step on power bills, etc. In some ways it's easier to offload the whole thing to a managed hosting service.

Remind me again why you're going green.

We're doing it because it makes business sense. It's something we are (all) going to have to do so I'd rather be at the forefront.

Do you think legislation is coming that will force the green pace?

For sure. Regulation is going to come, probably taxation too, for all organisations; quite possibly in terms of a carbon budget. I assume something will happen.

Where does this leave us?

Rackspace is a realistic green pioneer with its new datacentre. It is not spending wildly on green initiatives that will cost more to implement than they will return in cost-savings and/or increased customer revenue. Unless legislation, possibly augmented by specific taxation policies, forces it to do more it will not do any more than treating power efficiency as a good way of lowering costs with the happy added benefit of lowering its carbon footprint, which is a good thing in itself.

What Rackspace is doing is made possible by it building a brand new data centre, and wouldn't have been possible in its leased co-location facilities. It's working at the suite level in a building which it owns so it has a relatively free run, it being the lord of all its suites. Suites are cooled as they are occupied by servers; the room generally is not. By using cold outside air to cool these suites in winter months the overall air-conditioning and cooling bill is cut. It's sensible and proportionate and doesn't involve spending an additional million pounds or more on sensor-based rack zone cooling.

It's probably less than environmental campaigners would wish but it is progress and Rackspace is clearly willing to do more if its business environment changes. We shouldn't expect any more than this. This is the green datacentre reality, and unless you are a bank with zillions of pounds to spend it is very probably your reality too.

Greening existing datacentres' physical infrastructure will be difficult. Consolidating server and storage contents through virtualisation and networking ian be a good thing. Retro-fitting advanced cooling systems to existing centres will cost serious money. If you are moving into a new datacentre then you have a much freer hand and will get more green bangs for your buck. That's the lesson to draw from the Rackspace experience.

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Chris Mellor

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