Data Center's Greener Future Still Far Off

Gartner notes that existing energy monitoring and measurement tools are still too immature to be of use to data center retrofitters.

According to a recent survey conducted by market watcher Gartner Inc., the green data center of the future is still a long way off.

This isn't as frustrating -- or as much of a setback -- as it might seem, however. The bad news is that current data center management tools -- particularly next-gen technologies that can be used to monitor or measure energy consumption -- are still too immature to be of use to would-be green data center retrofitters. The good news is that robust energy monitoring or measurement tools are -- at this point -- a nice-to-have luxury, not a need-to-have staple. There's much to keep would-be data center retrofitters busy, such as ongoing consolidation, rationalization, and virtualization efforts.

According to Gartner, there's dissonance at work here, which indicates that although respondents tend to rate green IT as a top priority issue, most aren't putting their money -- i.e., their IT budget dollars -- where their mouths are. In fact, less than one-tenth (7 percent) of respondents indicate that they're willing to prioritize green procurement activities, much less push vendor suppliers to deliver "greener" IT technologies, even though over two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) listed data center energy management as their top green IT issue.

Gartner notes that only 7 per cent of respondents stated that emphasizing green procurement practices or pushing vendors or suppliers to deliver more energy-efficient were among their top priorities.

"This finding is further affirmed in client conversations which reveal that, although the green IT and data center energy issue has been on the agenda for some time now, many managers feel that they have to deal with more-immediate concerns before focusing attention on their suppliers' products," said Rakesh Kumar, research vice president at Gartner, in a prepared release. "In other words, even if more energy-efficient servers or energy management tools were available, data center and IT managers are far more interested in internal projects like consolidation, rationalization and virtualization."

Gartner's survey has an 18-month horizon. The rub, Kumar observes, is that nearly one-sixth of respondents (15 percent) say they're already hitting a wall, capacity-wise, so much so that they'll have to build new data center sites or retrofit existing locations at some point over the next year. In addition, a solid majority (63 percent) of respondents expect to max out their existing data center investments within 18 months. Clearly, the clock is ticking.

What's worrisome, according to Gartner, is that outside of talking in mostly general terms about going green, comparatively few shops seem to have given much thought to the specifics of doing so. For example, Gartner researchers say, the ability to effectively manage energy depends to a high degree on a corresponding ability to monitor, model, and (of course) measure it. Only a very slight majority (52 percent) of respondents, however, say they've given any thought to the question of metrics. Fully 48 percent say they "have not even considered the issue of metrics," according to Gartner.

"These metrics form the bedrock for internal cost and efficiency programs and will become increasingly important for external use," Kumar indicated. "Organizations that want to publicize their carbon usage through green accounting principles will need to have their basic energy use continuously monitored."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.