While many data center managers and administrators are paying lip service to being “green,” i.e. doing everything they can to reduce power consumption and costs, the fact is most are still not stepping up to be accountable.
That’s the findings of a survey from the Uptime Institute, released this week at the group’s Symposium conference in Santa Clara, Calif., which suggests something it calls “green fatigue” is setting in when it comes to making data centers greener.
“Green fatigue” is exactly as it sounds: managers are getting tired of the increasingly difficult race to chop their PUE, or Power Usage Effectiveness. The PUE is a measure of a data center’s efficiency. The lower the PUE, the better—and Microsoft and Google, with nearly limitless resources, have set the bar so high (or low, depending on your perspective) that it’s making less-capitalized firms frustrated.
Just a few years ago, the Uptime Institute estimated that the average PUE of a data center was around 2.4, which meant for every dollar of electricity to power a data center, $1.4 dollars were spent to cool it. That dropped to 1.8 recently, an improvement to be sure. But then you have companies such as Google and Microsoft building data centers next to rivers for cheap hydroelectric power in remote parts of the Pacific Northwest and reporting insanely low PUEs (below 1.1 in some cases).
The Institute latest survey of data center operators shows only 50 percent of respondents in North America said they considered energy efficiency to be very important to their companies, down from 52 percent last year and 58 percent in 2011.
The figure is more pronounced with smaller data centers. If they had less than 1,000 servers, then only 50 percent were concerned with PUE. Contrast that with 90 percent of firms with more than 5,000 servers saying PUE adoption was important.
Matt Stansberry, Uptime Institute’s director of content and publications, attributes the smaller companies’ frustration to the lack of funds necessary to keep up: “The reason the small guys aren’t achieving better PUEs is they don’t have the staff to do the stuff a Google or a Microsoft can do. They don’t have the financial rewards and expertise to do it.”
Not helping is the lack of leadership. Forty percent of enterprise data center operators said they have no scheduled reporting to C-level management at all. Among those that do, 34 percent report monthly, 8 percent report weekly, 13 percent report quarterly and six percent annually. Another 23 percent say they report only when asked.
The disconnect between IT and facilities has long been a concern of the Institute. For years, its founder Kenneth Brill and his analysts have pounded the table on the importance for IT to pay the electric bill so they understand just how much power they consume. Thus far, their efforts appear to have been in vain: according to the survey, 80 percent of the data center electric bills are paid by the company’s facilities department while IT pays its own way only 16 percent of the time.
The reason for the disconnect is that for many larger firms, IT is “kind of invisible. As long as the apps are up, they don’t care. For a lot of big companies, the data center is such a tiny part of your IT budget it just doesn’t register,” Stansberry said.
But Stansberry suggested the Institute is also changing its target audience. For years, it aimed its message at IT managers. Now it’s going after the finance department. “Maybe we looked at the wrong targets. Essentially you got to get to the finance guys to get these decisions pushed through,” he said.
Editor’s Note: The name of Kenneth Brill has been corrected.