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Green vs. Cost – Moral vs. Financial

With like for like plant technology when comparing installation, footprint, CapEx etc for power and cooling solutions, and when we also take into account new cooling technologies and innovative but proven ways of applying a greener solution, the question should be, ‘How green can I be ?’. It is possible to achieve an energy efficient Data Centre without pushing the boundaries of new technologies requiring specialist operation and control that are often conceived as difficult to maintain.

The mainstream of innovative power and cooling solutions establishing their mark on the Data Centre sector today employ existing technology, in many ways are simpler to maintain than conventional plant, have a huge impact on OpEx savings, and only require the investor to accept innovative yet sound conceptual ideas that provides the most suitable solution for the client today, whilst maintaining the highest efficiency attainable. Up to 20,000 of the top UK companies are gearing up for the Carbon Tax & Trading Scheme that becomes legislation in April 2010, of which many are Data Centre providers or owners that cumulatively play a crucial part within the high energy use arena. It is this scheme along with other carbon credit schemes within EMEA that will become more widespread within the global energy-users market place within the near future, and it is intended that this type of driver and energy legislation will help meet the global energy reduction targets.

The green agenda and corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been around for at least a decade now, and as yet has been an unregulated driver that at best has been developed for marketing and prestige purposes. However this has fueled the drive to some extent to achieve best practices and set platforms for improving energy efficiency, and there are some excellent corporate champions that are leading the way to becoming carbon neutral. There is now much activity in the development of global best practice standards and guidelines for Data Centres, amongst a flurry of activity to develop metrics for assessing efficiency and performance of critical environments, and even the improvement of professional standards for Data Centre environmental controls. It is clear that the next step is to amalgamate these efforts in a unified manor that joins the moral activities of CSR, the financial drivers and impacts of carbon TAX and trading legislation, into the long term planning and greener life cycle costs of the Data Centre.

In essence the ideal Data Centre strategy should attempt to not pitch green vs. cost and moral vs. financial against one another, but aim to achieve a careful balance based on the business requirements and client expectations over the course of the project and completed Data Centre life cycle. A fragmented approach often leads to misaligned objectives, unrealistic targets and inherent problems that often can waste any energy savings or good intentions that the scheme may have conceptually had. This unfortunately has the result of casting doubt on the control metrics, the technologies deployed and the efficiency expectations from the design brief, whilst the objective should be towards ensuring the energy strategy is realized throughout the project and Data Centre life cycle, including that of operational control.

By understanding the realistic performance achievable with today’s power and cooling technology, and aligning this with local geography and climate, and integrating this into corporate policy with tangible green agenda’s and avoiding so called ‘greenwash’, the client should be able to develop realistic targets for energy efficient Data centre’s that ensure the future proofing of today’s business against the needs and requirements of tomorrow.

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