Green Data Centers Becoming Popular Energy Savers for States

As going green — and saving green — continues gaining popularity, IT departments are reducing energy costs in their data centers.
April 10, 2012

By Tanya Roscorla, Government Technology Staff Writer

As going green — and saving green — continues gaining popularity, IT departments are reducing energy costs in their data centers.

The 2012 Energy Efficient IT Report — the fourth annual report of its kind by CDW-G — outlines energy efficiency statistics gathered from business and nonprofits, all levels of government, higher education and K-12 schools. The state and local respondents included 31 governments that have a program to manage data center power demand, of which 81 percent said they’ve reduced their data center energy costs by 1 percent or more.

Of those same respondents, 53 percent said they are experiencing savings with new cooling approaches, and 30 percent said data center purchases made in the last three months were green.

According to the report, the respondents said the top technologies implemented this year were virtualized servers/storage, consolidated servers and Energy Star qualified devices. Of technologies used, the easiest to implement were Energy Star qualified devices, hardware that employs newer, low-power/low-wattage processors, and energy-efficient uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

The percentage of respondents increased from last year on the topic of cloud computing as an energy-efficient approach. In 2011, 58 percent of respondents agreed that cloud computing was an energy efficient up from 47 percent in 2010.

And going green isn’t only becoming popular in government. IT departments at universities and school districts are also making their data centers more energy efficient.

In the last three months, education organizations have bought products and services that are energy efficient, water efficient, bio-based, environmentally preferable or non-ozone depleting. The CDW-G survey showed that 33 percent of higher education purchases were green compared to 30 percent of K-12 purchases.

5 Technologies That Could Save Energy

In higher education, IT professionals listed these top three technologies as most likely to save them money:

1. Energy-efficient uninterruptible power supplies

2. Consolidated servers

3. Virtualized servers/storage

K-12 respondents cited two different technologies, but agreed with higher education respondents that virtualization is important:

1. New cooling approaches

2. Virtualized servers/storage

3. Energy Star devices

Cloud Computing Moves Up

While cloud computing doesn't fall into education's top five technologies, it is gaining steam. Last year's survey showed that 49 percent of higher education IT professionals thought cloud computing could save energy. This year, that number jumped 13 percent to 62.

Since last year's report, 15 percent more IT professionals agree that cloud computing can save energy as they consolidate their data centers. That number now reaches 62 percent.

Likewise, the K-12 responses jumped from 47 percent to 64 percent.

3 Technologies That Education Groups Implement

Both higher education and K-12 started using the same three technologies to cut energy costs. The only difference was that virtualized servers and storage came in at No. 1 in higher education.

1. Server consolidation

2. Virtual servers and storage

3. Hardware that uses newer, low-power and low-wattage processors

5 Barriers to Becoming More Energy Efficient

But not every organization is actually pushing IT departments to cut energy costs. Slightly more than half of the IT departments in all five industries have been asked to save on energy. Nearly a third say no one's made that request.

When asked to cite the major barriers that keep them from using energy more efficiently, respondents cited five factors:

1. They don't have enough money for more efficient systems.

2. Senior managers prioritize investments in other areas rather than in saving energy.

3. They can't isolate and measure the energy they use.

4. The organization's bill payers don't look at IT's energy use.

5. They don't know all the ways to save energy.

When the first energy-efficient IT report came out in 2008, 43 percent of IT executives said the people who pay their bills don't pay attention to how much energy IT departments use. Four years later, that percentage has not changed.

But more survey respondents do know all the ways they can make their IT organization more efficient. In the 2008 report, 49 percent said they didn't know everything about saving energy. The K-12 sub-group was even higher at 57 percent. In this year's report, the all-industry percentage dropped to 42 percent.

Overall, organizations are taking steps to save energy in their data centers as well as in their entire IT operations. On their way down this path, they're figuring out what technologies could give them the most energy-efficient results, realizing that cloud computing has energy-saving potential and overcoming some major barriers.

*Industry sub-groups have a margin of error of ±7.9% at a 95% confidence level. Each sub-group had 152 respondents.

Sarah Rich contributed to this article.

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