Data center operators not keen on green: survey

Most IT leaders making data center equipment purchases don't prioritize energy efficiency or environmental impact.

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Most data center operators are not prioritizing power and other "green" issues. While enterprises are making incremental improvements toward energy-efficient initiatives, they're advancing at a very slow rate, according to new research data.

Supermicro surveyed more than 5,000 IT professionals for its Data Centers and the Environment report. One of the goals of the annual report is to help IT leaders to lessen the long-term environmental impact of their data center equipment purchases.

Those surveyed said total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) are their primary measures of success. Less than 15% said that energy efficiency, corporate social responsibility, and environmental impact are key considerations for their facilities. At the same time, 22% of respondents noted that environmental considerations are too expensive to be considered a priority.

The survey also found that almost 9 out of 10 data centers are not designed for optimal power efficiency, which, as a result, can cost a data center more than $1.4 million every year in wasted electricity, based on national averages.

Supermicro notes that despite new cooling technology and new hardware products that work just fine in higher-than-average operating temperatures, companies are still wasting energy needlessly cooling their data centers. In 2019, the number of businesses that kept their facilities and servers below 24C (75F) increased by 13% over last year and consists of two-thirds of all respondents.

This last part is disheartening. As far back as 2009, Intel discovered it's not necessary to turn your data center into a meat locker – CPUs could do just fine in slightly hotter climates. It’s clear after a decade the message hasn’t gotten out, or hasn’t sunk in. It’s understandable that the people in the data center don’t want to work in a sauna but how often are they in there? 

Data-center equipment recycling lags

If the power consumption trends are disheartening, the e-waste disposal habits of the surveyed are downright distressing. E-waste makes up 2% of trash and 70% of overall toxic waste in the US, and enterprises aren’t helping. In 2019, the number of companies recycling their decommissioned hardware has dropped across the board:

  • The number of businesses partnering with a certified recycling company dropped by 14% from 2018 to 2019, and the number of companies reporting recycling the hardware themselves dropped by 5%.
  • Roughly 10% of the largest enterprises with the most data center hardware are still essentially throwing away decommissioned equipment.
  • Nine percent of these largest enterprises reported disposing of the hardware without relying on any kind of recycling.

Supermicro said optimized hardware refresh cycles would reduce e-waste by more than 80% and achieve 15% better performance while lowering acquisition costs by 44% – potentially reducing annual capital savings by $900k and resulting e-waste by 12 tons. 

But companies are not refreshing as fast as they used to. In 2018, the majority of businesses surveyed, 35%, planned to refresh server hardware every two to three years. But in 2019 that shifted to 40% planning to refresh server hardware every four or five years instead.

"The 2019 survey findings establish again that consideration of the environmental impact for data center equipment selection continues to be an IT industry challenge," said Charles Liang, president and CEO of Supermicro in a statement. "We are continuing our focus on Resource-Saving Architecture to help end-customers save both energy and hardware acquisition costs while reducing the environmental impact."

E-waste aside, the idea of throwing corporate servers in a landfill is horrifying. I just hope those companies have the good sense to remove the hard drives, but at this point nothing would surprise me.

The full report can be found here.


Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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