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We have the power

01 May 2011

Operating in an environmentally conscious way is seen by many companies as a normal extension of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy. The companies recycle, reduce waste consumption and buy carbon neutral energy – but do they know how to manage their energy effectively once they have purchased their green energy?

Data centres alone account for 2%-3% of total world energy use. With IT contributing 4%-5% of total energy, greening the IT department is a critical step towards environmental sustainability and carbon reduction.

In a recent CIO survey by Gartner1, 70% of respondents said power and/or cooling issues are now the single largest problem facing their data centres.

In fact, the real problem is the information gap. The channel has an opportunity to educate customers about how to manage their energy in the most effective way, through monitoring and measurement of all IT systems. The subsequent reductions in energy consumption will reduce both organisations’ carbon footprint and energy bills.

What are the customer benefits to energy measurement?

Understanding the cost of energy and where this is used is the first step in managing energy effectively. From here it is possible to benchmark usage, monitor trends and measure reductions in energy use (and corresponding cost savings) through the installation of "greener” data centre technology.

If you are speaking to a CIO, CFO or business owner, any green data centre recommendations need to make commercial sense. Investment in greener technology will need to show a return (both CSR and commercial) over a one-three or five-year period.

How is energy management measured and benchmarked?

Energy use in the data centre can be measured right down to the rack level. Software can monitor cooling systems, racks, rows and security to ensure energy is used efficiently to power cooling units, UPS and other devices.

The current data centre industry energy management is called Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), where PUE is the ratio of total power used by a data centre to the power used by the IT equipment alone. The PUE rating for new data centres in New Zealand can range from 1.2 – 1.9 upwards (a PUE of 1.9 means almost as much power is consumed by the IT equipment as is used by infrastructure such as the cooling plant), but organisations with existing data centre equipment can reduce their own (generally higher) PUE ratings easily. Increasing energy costs and tougher organisational targets to reduce carbon emissions means PUE ratings are starting to decrease.APC by Schneider Electric has worked with countless organisations to help them decrease their energy footprint. This has included work with Auckland-based hosting and co-location provider, Maxnet, who we partnered with to achieve a targeted PUE of 1.2. This is an industry leading result, but our engagement on reducing environmental impacts and increasing efficiencies does not stop at PUE.

Still a skeptic? One final reason to know more about how to measure energy usage

The NZ Emissions Trading Scheme is in its infancy at present and does not have onerous obligations for New Zealand organisations to meet. However, organisations need to understand what they are spending on energy and where. Being aware of this now, and working to reduce carbon footprints early will pay off in the future.

A common example discussed with customers is CAPEX vs OPEX. Channel partners need to highlight the business costs associated with ongoing OPEX through energy costs and contrast that with CAPEX investment in greener data centre technology that will pay itself off over a clearly measurable life cycle.

Knowing how to measure the energy and cost saving from efficient data centre technology is critical for the channel. Those who can accurately advise green conscious organisations on IT investments will gain competitive advantage. Gartner CIO Survey 

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