CHALLENGE: Balancing skyrocketing energy costs with ever-increasing computing needs may seem like competing demands. But Citi, Wachovia, Bank of America and other firms finally will start to make their data centers truly eco-friendly in 2008.
Why It's Important: The main driver behind green data centers today is economic -- data center costs are racing ahead of IT budget increases. In a study released by Symantec in October, 44 percent of data center managers reported cost savings as a motivation for going green, 43 percent selected increased efficiency and two-thirds cited social responsibility. "The limitation is on available power and space," says Larry Lamers, a director of The Green Grid and senior engineering manager at VMware.
"One of the drivers behind green data centers for us is that we have a limited amount of space, power and cooling," says Jacob Hall, VP and head of the platform design and data center technology products group at Wachovia. "We want to shuffle things around in the way we deploy computers so that we can buy more compute capacity rather then buying a lot of redundant technologies." [Ed. note: Wachovia aims to achieve its goal largely through a massive virtualization plan. For more on the inititive, watch for the January issue of WS&T.]
Where the Industry Is Now: In Symantec's study, which polled 250 large-firm data center managers and conducted focus groups and interviews with another 71 (13.6 percent of survey respondents and 20 percent of focus group attendees were from financial services institutions), 49 percent of respondents said that their companies have adopted or announced a general green policy. However, only 14 percent had begun implementing a green data center.
Focus in 2008: Wall Street firms and data center operators in general are in the early stages of data center efficiency initiatives. "First is figuring out where the heck you are; the next step is going after the low-hanging fruit like hot-aisle/cold aisle isolation and looking at set points on computers and air conditioners to make sure everything is tuned," says Don Tilton, a director of The Green Grid and founder and director of SprayCool, a data center cooling solutions provider.
The Symantec survey indicated that virtualization and consolidation (cited by 32 percent) and energy-efficient CPUs (28 percent) are the two technologies that reduce power consumption the most in data centers. Investment in these two areas (i.e., virtualization software, efficient server racks and even remote desktops) is sure to continue into next year. Surprisingly, in Wall Street & Technology's own survey this fall of 54 Wall Street executives, not one selected "reducing energy consumption" as a top IT priority for 2008. However, 12 percent of sell-side firms and 5 percent of buy-side firms put "deploying virtualization technology" among their top three priorities.
Industry Leaders: Citi announced this year that it will devote $50 billion over the next 10 years to "green" investments, alternative energy and new technologies. The firm intends to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 10 percent by 2011 at its more than 14,500 facilities worldwide. Bank of America also began a decade-long environmental initiative worth $20 billion; the commitment includes $100 million for energy conservation measures at all facilities. And Wachovia is in the middle of a 36-month effort to relocate and overhaul many of its data centers for the dual purposes of reducing energy consumption and achieving geographic diversity. The firm also plans to construct 300 green branches nationwide by 2010 that reportedly will use 20 percent less energy than traditional branches.
Technology Providers: Among the 100-plus IT vendor members of The Green Grid are AMD, APC, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Rackable, Sun, VMWare, BT, Cisco, EMC, Novell, Sungard and Verari. Almost every provider of data center equipment and supplies is doing something to improve energy efficiency in its products.
Price Tag: The green data center Wachovia constructed in Birmingham this year cost $400 million. Tilton says that a 100 percent return on investment for energy-conserving technologies typically can be achieved in eight months to a year.