Gartner: Power efficiency not enough for green data centers

If 'greening' the data center is the goal, power efficiency is only the starting point.

Increased power efficiency alone won't be sufficient to turn data centers truly "green," Gartner said Wednesday in advance of a major data center conference.

"If 'greening' the data center is the goal, power efficiency is the starting point but not sufficient on its own," Gartner analyst Rakesh Kumar said in a short research note. "'Green' requires an end-to-end, integrated view of the data center, including the building, energy efficiency, waste management, asset management, capacity management, technology architecture, support services, energy sources and operations."

Legacy data centers are becoming obsolete, particularly when it comes to addressing environmental problems, Gartner said. More advanced power and cooling capabilities are needed to support data center equipment that is increasingly dense and power hungry.

"If they are not fully aware of the problem, data center managers run the risk of doubling their energy costs between 2005 and 2011," Gartner stated. "If we assume that data center energy costs continue to double every five years, they will have increased 1,600 percent between 2005 and 2025."

IT should strive to build data centers that are like intelligent living organisms, heavy on modelling and measuring tools, running workloads where energy is cheapest, and addressing technical, financial and environmental demands while offering 99.999% availability, the analyst firm says.

Locations should be chosen strategically, Gartner says, noting that high-bay, warehouse-like buildings result in more efficient rack layout and airflow. Sites should be developed with modular components, incorporate recycling and alternative energy sources, HVAC systems and perhaps water cooling.

Monitoring tools are also crucial, for example to manage servers, moving away from an "always on" mentality, Gartner says. (See Six Steps to a Green Data Center.)

"Tomorrow's data center is moving from being static to becoming a living organism, where modelling and measuring tools will become one of the major elements of its management," Kumar says. "In this way, data centers will become more energy efficient, be better for the environment and use emerging green IT products and processes. In essence, this living organism data center will be the green data center."

(See A green IT checklist: From first steps to stretch goals.)

Gartner will provide more analysis on green data center trends, as well as topics like virtualization, storage, servers and IT operations during the first week of December at the analyst firm's 27th annual Data Center Conference in Las Vegas.

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