Published: 12 Oct 2008
| Green data centers are a noble idea. But saving greenbacks can make you a hero.
YOU'RE FINALLY FEELING a bit guilty about that carbon footprint of yours, aren't you? If you're like me, you try to do little things to help out, yet doing the right thing can be incredibly frustrating. So instead you do what I do. You give it your best shot and go to bed feeling like it's all of the other people on the planet who are screwing things up.
When I'm at home, I recycle. I take painstaking (almost militaristic, if you were to ask my family) measures to make sure all things cardboard or paper wind up in the proper recycling bin. I do the same with bottles and cans, and a number of wine bottles that seem to multiply on their own. I lug bin upon bin of these items out to the curb, feeling as though I must be doing something right, even if those bins sit next to three enormous, embarrassing barrels of waste. I leave for work with the feeling that I've done something to help the environment, only to return to find half of the cardboard sitting there with a little note saying "too big" or "not folded/wrapped properly" or some other pathetic excuse for not taking it. Why, you ask? Because the recycling company doesn't get paid by the volume of stuff it picks up, it gets paid for completing its run. If they overload their trucks, they have to make a stop and dump out their load before finishing their run (and also keeps them from tossing back a cold one, you could argue). As such, any excuse to avoid overloading the trucks in the first place works for them.
I've battled my town managers to no avail. I've spent hours cutting cardboard into precise 2' x 2' squares and tying it with recycled string, only to videotape these guys not taking my stuff away. I'm living a Larry David episode in real life. The lesson? When the incentive doesn't align with the mission, you can't expect to reach a happy ending.
It's no different in IT shops. Putting fluorescent lightbulbs throughout the data center may make you feel good, but if you think that's going to get you a hero's welcome, you're probably mistaken. (Don't get me going on fluorescents either; they're supposed to last 8,000 years, but mine blow up much more often than the old ones, cost four times as much and contain neurotoxins that contaminate the soil.)
If your corporate green initiatives have been deemed important (read: The CEO actually cares) and there are real business objectives around those initiatives (read: We want to build a jet engine that doubles the power output on 25% of the fuel consumption in 10 years), then changing lightbulbs won't get you promoted.
The only green that truly matters is the color of money. Process changes will save more power and cooling than anything else you can do inside the average data center. We use the industry term PCSE: power, cooling and space efficiency. And what's more efficient than not powering, cooling or housing something? Nothing. So stop keeping a million copies of the same persistent (non-changing) data and you'll dramatically improve your PCSE.
If you go a step further and tell your boss how you not only saved the company money and reclaimed valuable data center space, but that your actions will help meet the company's overall green objectives of making more money faster, you'll probably find your status growing along with your budget. And using green to align IT with the business will make other groups green with envy.