Chapter 1: Going Green in the Data Center

Cisco Press

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More than nine out of ten Data Center owners and operators still expect some manner of increased regulation according to the Datacenter Research Group that conducts market surveys among attendees of the DatacenterDynamics conference series. Surveys of 540 attendees, conducted in 2008, reveal that only 7.8 percent believe increased regulation won’t happen. (Interestingly, opinions differ over the effect of increased regulation and compliance—26 percent predict negative impact on their organization, 25.8 percent predict positive impact, and the remaining 40 percent anticipate neutral impact.) The surveys were conducted at DataCenterDynamics conferences in Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C.

Multicountry Green Commitments

Several countries have meanwhile collectively pledged to be greener.

The European Commission has called for reducing energy usage across the 27 countries of the European Union at least 20 percent by 2020, cutting carbon dioxide emissions from primary energy sources 20 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2050, a 10 percent use of bio-fuels by 2020, and the development of a European Strategic Energy Technology plan to foster advances in renewable energy, energy conservation, nuclear power, clean coal, and carbon capture.

The commission has also stated a desire to establish an international agreement for all developed nations to cut energy usage 30 percent by 2020. (All energy reduction goals are in comparison to 1990 levels.)

Note - Carbon dioxide is one of several so-called greenhouse gases that trap heat from the sun and warm the Earth. If present in high enough quantities, such gases are believed to contribute to a rise in global temperatures that, in turn, cause environmental problems.

Chapter 2, “Measuring Green Data Centers,” discusses greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide emissions in greater detail.

Minimum standards for building energy performance have also begun to be applied with European Union member states, in accordance with the EU Energy Performance Building Directive. The directive, which was passed in 2002 and came into effect in 2006, established a common methodology for calculating building energy performance.

European Union countries are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

As of this writing, the European Commission is also continuing a series of studies of electronic equipment for the purpose of establishing new energy and environmental restrictions for those products. The effort is the latest stage of the European Union’s Eco-design Directive for Energy Using Products. Issued in 2005 and generally adopted into law by EU countries in 2007, the directive requires prevalent electronic devices (200,000-plus units selling per year in the EU) to meet minimum power consumption guidelines and for manufacturers to determine the environmental impact of products over their complete lifecycle, from design and manufacture to use and disposal.

Specific energy performance minimums for various equipment will ultimately be set in the form of “implementing measures.” The first wave of equipment that the European Commission has focused on includes boilers, water heaters, personal computers, copiers and other imaging equipment, televisions, batteries and external power supplies, office lighting, street lighting, air conditioning, commercial refrigerators and freezers, laundry driers, vacuum cleaners, set top boxes, and domestic lighting.

You can find information about European Commission green-related activities in multiple languages, at

The 21-member countries of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation announced in 2007 the goal to reduce their cumulative energy intensity by at least 25 percent by 2030 (compared to 2005). APEC is a cooperative, multilateral economic forum dedicated to promoting trade and economic growth, and its member economies account for more than one-third of the world’s population (2.6 billion people), more than 50 percent of the world’s gross domestic product ($19.25 trillion), and more than 41 percent of the world’s trade.

APEC’s member economies are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam.

Note - Economically speaking, energy intensity is the ratio of energy consumption to economic or physical output—energy use per unit of gross domestic product. A country that has a lower energy intensity is considered more energy-efficient because it produces more items or services using fewer energy resources.

A country’s energy intensity is ultimately influenced by several factors, including standard of living (and associated quantity of energy-using devices); the energy efficiency of buildings, appliances and vehicles; severity of climate (influencing energy usage for heating and cooling); and the prevalence of energy-consuming mechanisms such as mass transit or energy conservation programs.

At the Second East Asia Summit in early 2007, leaders of 16 countries signed the Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security, pledging to create voluntary energy-efficiency targets for their respective nations and to work for “intensified energy efficiency and conservation programs” and expanded renewable energy systems.

Officials took a further step at the Third East Asia Summit at the end of 2007, signing the Singapore Declaration on Climate Change, Energy and the Environment, committing to “working toward achieving a significant reduction in energy intensity” and setting energy efficiency goals by 2009.

Summit participants include Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, India, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Note - In what might be an indication of binding requirements to come for the Data Center industry, the European Commission in 2008 published a voluntary Code of Conduct on Data Centres Energy Efficiency calling for Data Center owners and operators, hardware manufacturers, and service providers to adopt several practices aimed to improve Data Center energy efficiency.

Data Center operators who agree to participate in the Code of Conduct are expected to collect and report energy usage of their IT hardware and overall facility and follow dozens of identified best practices, ranging from decommissioning unused hardware to installing blanking panels within server cabinets to considering temperature and humidity ranges as a key factor when choosing new hardware, so the Data Center that houses them can ultimately be operated at warmer settings.

A copy of the Code of Conduct, and a companion document that offers more than 100 best practices for participants to potentially pursue, is available at

Of all the multigovernment commitments to being green, perhaps the best known and most symbolic is the Kyoto Protocol. Adopted in 1997 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and legally in effect by 2005, the agreement calls for participating industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a cumulative 5.2 percent between 2008 and 2012 (compared to 1990 levels).

Reduction targets vary by nation including 8 percent for the European Union; 7 percent for the United States; 6 percent for Canada, Hungary, Japan, and Poland; and 5 percent for Croatia. New Zealand, Russia, and Ukraine are to remain flat, at 0 percent, whereas Australia is allowed an 8 percent increase and Iceland a 10 percent increase. If accomplished, the cumulative 5.2 percent reduction represents a 29 percent drop from the emission levels that were otherwise projected for 2010.

As of mid-2008, 181 countries and the European Union ratified the protocol. Of those, 36 countries and the EU are required to meet specific emission reduction targets. Those that fail to meet their 2012 targets are required to reach those reductions plus an additional 30 percent in a second time frame from 2013.

Note - It’s relevant to note that there is some debate over the ultimate value and impact of the Kyoto Protocol.

Critics disagree with the protocol’s provisions for emissions trading, for example, which allows a country that fails to meet its reduction targets to buy excess capacity from other nations. They also oppose allowing countries to deduct from their emission totals for carbon sinks, natural areas of forest, or other vegetation that absorb carbon dioxide.

Also the United States, which is one of the largest producers of greenhouse gases in the world, has indicated it will not ratify the agreement. U.S. officials expressed concern that implementing the protocol would damage the U.S. economy and that it does not require developing countries to commit to emissions reductions. (This includes China and India, which are major producers of greenhouse gas.)

Proponents say that the Kyoto Protocol is still a major accomplishment, being the first legally binding treaty to mandate greenhouse gas and paving the way for greater measures in the future. Several conferences have already occurred to discuss what steps can or should be taken after the protocol’s 2012 deadline passes.

Large-scale mandates to reduce carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency can be expected to grow in scope in the future, underscoring how important it is for Data Centers to be greener than ever.

Technology Advances

As time goes on, Data Center technologies and designs evolve and improve. This occurs with facilities infrastructure and, at a much faster pace, with IT equipment. Many advances bring green opportunities with them.

Some of these are incremental changes that occur over time, such as a new generation of servers that have more processing capability than what came before. Others are more dramatic, such as virtualization technology that facilitates greater utilization of equipment.

Still others are foundational changes that are introduced when a server environment is first designed and built, such as when Data Center designers began establishing distinct hot and cold aisles to reduce the mixing of hot and cold air in the hosting space, thereby increasing the efficiency of its cooling system.

Public Perception

The final reason to go green is, for any business that sells a product or service, arguably the most compelling—your customers want you to. Opinion surveys taken on a range of topics and in many different regions of the world show a notable preference among consumers to do business with companies that are good to the environment. Many people are even willing to pay a premium, if needed, to buy green goods and services.

A massive public opinion survey of 27,000 Europeans, conducted across the European Union in late 2007 and published in 2008, indicated that 75 percent are “ready to buy environmentally friendly products even if they cost a little bit more.” The Eurobarometer, a series of surveys performed regularly for the European Commission since 1973, was conducted through face-to-face interviews in people’s homes and showed a strong interest in buying green products.

Table 1.3 shows the percentages of Europeans ready to buy green products according to the 2008 Eurobarometer survey “Attitudes of European citizens towards the environment.”

An array of smaller polls taken around the world in 2007 show similar sentiment. Among them:

  • More than six in ten U.S. homeowners said they are willing to pay more for products made with renewable resources. Respondents indicated 65 percent are willing to pay at least $5 more on a $100 product, and 40 percent are willing to pay at least $10 more. The survey of 1001 U.S. homeowners was sponsored by DuPont and Mohawk Industries and conducted by MarketTools (

  • Seven in ten utility consumers in Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific said environmental impact influences what they buy, and three in four said that companies’ reputations for environmental practices influenced who they buy from. The survey of 1900 utility consumers involved households and small businesses in Australia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It was conducted by IBM Global Business Services (

  • Twelve percent of U.S. consumers said they strongly favor paying more for consumer electronics if those items use less energy or come from an environmentally friendly company, and an additional 41 percent indicated they have concerns about environmental issues. The survey of 5000 U.S. consumers, “In Search of Green Technology Consumers,” was conducted by Forrester Research, Inc. (

Table 1.3 European Attitudes Toward Environmentally Friendly Purchases

European Union Members

Ready to buy Green













Czech Republic






United Kingdom






































Although answers to a poll don’t always equate to everyday action—people don’t always act on their stated good intentions—extrapolating the survey results to the consumer market shows the massive potential audience interested in green products. The three groups listed previously—U.S. homeowners; utility consumers in Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific, and overall U.S. consumers—encompass hundreds of millions of people. If even a fraction of that audience bases its purchasing decisions upon how green a company is, who wouldn’t want to be in a position to benefit from that?

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