Greening Via the Data Center

Christopher Hankin photo

Two weeks ago, instead of experiencing the D.C. snow storm that never came, I was in California attending the Green Grid Forum 2013.  For those of you who don't know about it, The Green Grid (TGG) is an open industry consortium of end users, policy makers, technology providers, facility architects, and utility companies that works to improve the resource efficiency of data centers. With more than 175 member companies around the world, it seeks to unite global industry efforts, create a common set of metrics, and develop technical resources and educational tools to further its goals.

This year's Forum had many highlights for me, both in the formal sessions and outside them in the hallways or over a drink.   Most striking to me is the out-of-the-box thinking and innovation that is occurring.  For instance, Ebay's Dean Nelson brought along both his data centers team and the corporate CFO to talk about how eBAY has upleveled the conversation on data center efficiency into one that the C-level of their company not only could understand, but embrace.   The result is their Digital Energy Service Metric, which is now publicly dashboarded.    See it and a 6-page white paper here (and there's the excellent GigaOM article) and you'll see how uniquely they've addressed value and transparency in upleveling data center sustainability.   

Google's Joe Kava gave an awesome presentation on the exciting things they are doing both to help ROI and to protect against constrained resource availability.   Converting old warehouses and paper mills into ultra-modern data centers, with creative new solutions.   For cooling, this includes using salt water at their Finnish data center, and "black water" cooling at several other sites, with the water in all cases going back out of the facility in better shape than it came in.    

There were presentations on waste to data center power, and on the roadmap for increasingly sustainable data centers.   EMC talked on the human face of big data and Microsoft on better software for data center utilization.   I had the pleasure of doing a panel with Colette Maloney of the EU Commission, and then to enjoy her remarks on a later panel that highlighted the  importance of data centers and IT innovations to achieving EU sustainability goals and embarking successfully on their smart cities efforts.   

As the new global digital economy continues to unfold, reliance on data centers will continue to increase.   This puts pressure on our industry to do what we can to get the greatest value from every kWh and other resource invested in the data center —  both reducing the denominator (resources in) and increasing the numerator (results out).   We need to be able to demonstrate to the world that we are indeed investing wisely to help ensure future sustainability, as well as growth.   And that is why I found this Forum so invigorating.   From what I was seeing and hearing, we are rising to the challenge.

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