Data Centres, Carbon and Clouds

by David Tebbutt

The purpose of this paper is to set the data centre and its future evolution into a broader perspective. But, don’t expect ‘magic bullets’. We don’t believe they exist. Your data centre evolution depends on things like the nature of your organisation, the type of data centre or centres, the applications you run, the kit you use, the sensitivity of your data and, indeed, the availability of resources – people, energy, connectivity and so on.
It also depends on where you are on the evolutionary scale, from a rats-nest of silo’ed applications on a jumble of servers to a fully virtualised, consolidated and harmonised environment which is aligned with the business, delivering secure computing services to any authorised user, anywhere in the world, on any device.

Data centre pressures

Power is an issue from both the ballooning cost perspective and from an availability one. Energy costs continue to rise and, unless UK Ltd can sort out its energy strategy or consumers can dramatically cut demand, we are likely to run into power constraints. When push comes to shove, will the government treat data centres as essential services, like hospitals? Unlikely.

The mad side effect of all this power consumption is the heat it generates. CRACs also have to be powered and the waste heat put to good use. Some companies use it for space heating, others for warming the car park in freezing weather. Anything is better than venting it to the atmosphere.
Many organisations have space constraints. Virtualisation may have eased the pressure, but future demands on your services may increase them again. Assuming you can lay your hands on the power.

Organisational pressures

The organisation, too, is under pressure from various sources and these usually find their way down to the data centre. Three things generally rise to the top of organisational concerns – their sequence varies by organisation type and size but they are money, image and regulations.
Regulations have a nasty habit of placing new demands on the data centre for processing and storage. Have you ever encountered a regulation that involves less work? Sarbanes Oxley, Basel II, EU data protection, Freedom of Information, anti-terror laws and so on all add to the administrative burden.

Now we have a biggie on the horizon: the Carbon Reduction Commitment or CRC. It starts in 2010 and could cramp your energy use if you are in the top 5,000 or so companies. It offers rewards to companies that improve their greenhouse gas emissions, paid for out of fines from those companies which do the opposite. That’s the theory, anyway.
The regulations target indirect emissions caused by the creation of the energy you use, and the direct emissions which result from running the business. This would include fleet vehicles, but not private cars for business use. However, most of the companies I know who are taking this stuff seriously are including business travel of all kinds in their calculations.

If you are a supplier to one of these companies, you are likely to be asked to prove your own environmental credentials in order to continue doing business with them. If your own organisation decides to act responsibly then, sooner or later, you will have to make choices about the equipment you buy and how you dispose of it…………

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