Oct 12, 2007

Should You Plant a Tree for Every Server in Your Lab?

Last week, I had traveled to Colorado Springs to spend some time with my team. There were several things I noticed during my visit. The clean, Colorado air was far less polluted than familiar Silicon Valley. There were no brown "smog rings" around Pike's Peak, unlike those I see around Mt. Hamilton from my office window. I heard from Spen that the local electric utility is planning to roll-out a demand-curtailment program, even though electricity is pretty cheap in Colorado. (By the way, that's my Colorado team in the picture. We're in Garden of the Gods, and that's Pike's Peak in the background.)

In Silicon Valley, the local utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, has several demand-curtailment programs to help combat the excess demand on the electric grid during warm summer months. If your data center participates in this program, PG&E will (1) provide lower rates for electricity during peak periods (2) provide rebates and (3) most importantly guarantee that your data center will remain operational (i.e., no brown-outs). In September, Cassatt had announced the Active Power Management technology. Watch this space for some exciting product announcements in the very near future.

This morning, I was reading a recent interview with Gartner's Rakesh Kumar. Some interesting highlights:
  • Data centers account for 25% of global carbon emissions from IT and communications technology.
  • 40% of the emissions are from PC's and monitors.
  • The data-center emissions are rising more rapidly than other sources.
  • Gartner released a research advisory Monday in which "Green IT" tops their list of industry issues.
In the past few weeks, I've been talking with several customers in Silicon Valley, and they all have expressed similar concerns. One company has three engineering sites in Silicon Valley, Massachusetts and India. All three are located in geographies with expensive electricity, but that's also where they get engineering talent. Their engineering labs are spending $1 million / year in electricity. We're talking with them about Active Power Management and how we can provide some quick savings by powering off unneeded servers and networking devices according to schedule-based policies. Customers are very receptive, since several are planning to roll-out new conservation programs in the coming months.

So there are some easy ways to manage the electric bill in your organization by starting with the development and test environments you have. You don't need to buy carbon offsets or plant a tree. You can address the source of the problem with a low-cost solution that's also simple-to-implement.

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