Rob Neave, co-founder and VP of IT and sustainability at nlyte Software, offers his view on the UK government’s league table designed as part of the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme
by Penny Jones
On the face of it, a government initiative aimed at improving energy efficiency and cutting emissions in large public and private sector organisations sounds like a programme that all types of self-respecting enterprises should be on board with. But the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme has been the subject of much controversy since its inception in 2008 – especially when the ‘green’ revenue recycling aspect of the scheme was scrapped in favour of a basic tax in 2010.
After the Environment Agency’s long-awaited CRC league table release early November, many organizations are now starting to question whether the league table really is a beneficial way to showcase progress in the energy management arena, or if it has in fact descended into a catalogue of irrelevant and misleading information. Murmours from various corners of the data center industry would suggest the latter, that it is simply distracting businesses from the main aim of the CRC – to become more energy efficient entities.
Based solely on approved Early Action Metrics, as opposed to real energy savings, it is difficult to discern exactly how green the 2,106 enterprises featured really are. What’s more, under the new carbon tax structure, rankings do not take into account the fact that some organizations may have already started to improve their energy efficiency through major IT investment, for example, that has not yet had a chance to be measured.
Yes, the league table concept makes a commendable effort to bring the UK’s energy intensive organisations together and work towards a greener environment, but the format is not only complicated, it attempts to compare apples with oranges given the range of companies it plots. In ranking these enterprises against each other – all of which have entirely different business objectives, from hospitals to multi-nationals – the energy credentials mean very different things, and correspondingly muddy the water when it comes to genuine energy efficiency.
What is clear from the results is the need for organizations to adopt a more proactive strategy from the outset when it comes to improving their carbon footprints – targeting energy within the business that is wasted unnecessarily is the key here. The data center can represent a significant proportion of an organization’s carbon footprint with its power thirsty hardware and rampant over provisioning, which means businesses need to wise up and deal with the most energy intensive aspect of their IT infrastructure sooner rather than later.
The downfall of many organizations is a basic lack of understanding when it comes to the make-up of their facilities. Simply knowing what assets are located where is a constant challenge, let alone understanding the inter-dependencies within the data centre itself. Data center professionals are still struggling to reduce energy usage across the data center environment at a fundamental level, while maintaining business continuity levels and preventing escalating cost to stay in line with higher corporate objectives.
The answer lies with an effective data center infrastructure management (DCIM) strategy – an organizational culture that can unite environmental sustainability, business reliability, and cost savings in the face of this new legislation. By investing in technology that can allocate all power, cooling, and space specifically to each individual asset in real time, companies can streamline their data center ensuring assets use only the energy they need. The latest generation of DCIM software enables data center professionals to easily visualize, model, plan, control, report and predict energy usage, that enables data center and facilities management teams to regain control of their data center estate with a more granular level of insight – drilling right down to rack, server, application and even power socket levels.
With expanding data reserves and trends such as virtualization, the composition and requirements of the data center are also becoming extremely volatile. As these trends evolve, the situation will only deteriorate, forcing organizations into a corner which they will either have to pay a hefty sum to get out of – be it a financial penalty or an overdue technology investment – or find their reputations in tatters.
While the CRC rankings provide no real insight into the extent of the UK’s green crusade, they should nevertheless serve as a wake-up call for businesses to not only reassess the energy saving processes with their data center estate, but also the technology in place to support it – if indeed they have any. Without this kind of practical mindset, organizations risk a sizable dent on their reputation and another year at the bottom of the rankings. Why would any organization want to risk this, when complete DCIM tools are available today?
Reprinted from Datacenter Dynamics 6 December 2011.