Yes, NRDC, Data Center Efficiency Matters – And Here’s What’s Being Done

Yesterday the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a data center efficiency assessment report that focuses on three key issues: the level of utilization of IT equipment; the impact of and potential for efficiency opportunities in multi-tenant data centers; and the degree to which the evolution of the industry’s technology and delivery model is aligning incentives to further drive energy efficiency. The full report is well worth a read. This, in my opinion is its most critical key takeaway:

“If just half of the technical savings potential for data center efficiency that we identify in this report were realized…electricity consumption in U.S. data centers could be cut by as much as 40 percent. In 2014, this represents a savings of 39 billion kWhs annually, equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of all the households in the state of Michigan. Such improvement would save U.S. businesses $3.8 billion a year.”

Some data center companies will no doubt attempt to cover up the fact that there are tremendous gains to be made by improving efficiency within the data center. But at IO we have an entire team dedicated to helping our customers realize data center energy efficiencies. Here’s what IO Applied Intelligence group leader Patrick Flynn had to say in yesterday’s National Geographic article:

“IO’s Flynn said that the data center sector has been ‘left behind’ on efficiency even as it has helped streamline other industries such as airlines and healthcare. His firm is building energy savings into its business strategy, aiming to compete by offering its clients more visibility into how much energy their servers are consuming and where they might maximize efficiency. ‘We’ve got a strategy of passing savings on to customers,’ he said.

“Pierre Delforge, who co-authored the [NRDC] report, echoed the idea that data centers have lagged in the productivity and efficiency that they have enabled in other sectors. ‘We want to make sure that this is not perceived as ‘data centers are bad,’’ he said. ‘For data centers to be part of the solution in terms of having a more efficient economy, they need to start cutting the waste in their own backyard.’”

What’s being done around data center efficiency

As the NRDC report and National Geographic article make clear, there is significant room for improvement in data center efficiency. At IO, that work has already begun. As Patrick Flynn has said, the data center – as the foundation of the IT stack – should be the foundation of IT efficiency: “The data center presents a ripe opportunity to fundamentally and comprehensively address today’s sustainability challenges.”

Here’s the problem – well articulated by McKinsey:

Operating time frames are one problem. Data centers take 2 years or more to design and build and are expected to last at least 12 years, so capacity is added well in advance of the actual needs of business units. At the same time there is an incomplete understanding of how business decisions affect one another, how they translate into the need for new applications, and how much server capacity is needed to meet demand.Considering that data centers have become a costly asset, accountability for financial performance is poor. Financial and management responsibility for facilities often falls to real estate managers who have little technical expertise and few insights into how IT relates to core business issues…Combined with the siloed decision making and accountability issues discussed above, extra servers are often added as insurance with little discussion of cost trade-offs or the needs of the business. In the absence of true cost analysis, overbuilding, overdesign, and inefficiency become the rule.

At IO, the Applied Intelligence team is tasked with providing that true analysis. Tasked with transforming data into value, the interdisciplinary team uses data mining, predictive modeling, machine learning and simulation to:

  1. Enable operators of IO Intelligent Control® platform to achieve optimal performance
  2. Equip developers of digital infrastructure with information to design data-driven solutions
  3. Provide customers of IO platform tools to achieve Intelligent Control of their information system

 

Already, the modular data center has demonstrated significant energy savings relative to a traditional raised-floor data center. Over the course of a year, the local Phoenix utility Arizona Public Service (APS) compared the energy usage in IO’s traditional raised-floor data center at IO.Phoenix and IO’s modular data center at the same location (so, apples-to-apples comparison). The conclusion: the modular data center environment used 18% less energy.

At IO, we’re investing so much into data center efficiency because – as the NRDC report illuminates – data center efficiency matters. To dive deeper into the specific ways (financial, environmental, and regulatory), stay tuned for part 2 in this series, The Buzz: Why (and How) Data Center Efficiency Matters.