Expert Advice

How to outsource your data centre and reduce emissions

There remains much confusion among businesses about the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme, particularly in organisations that outsource their data centre provision. This article will explain the requirements for organisations that outsource to data centres and provide some general guidance on working with a data centre provider to reduce your carbon footprint.

The Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC), which came into force at the beginning of April this year, is now mandatory for all large organisations, public sector bodies and businesses that consume relatively high amounts of energy. As such, it affects most data centres.

If you outsource your data centre, you might think that you are exempt from the scheme, as the carbon emissions are from another company (the data centre provider). This, however, does not convey the full picture. Outsourcers affected by the Scheme are, unsurprisingly, asking their customers to contribute to the associated costs. According to environmental consultancy Aardvark, occupiers of data centre space are already being asked to agree an extra carbon levy of up to 93p/sq ft, often based upon accounting assumptions, Memorandums of Understanding and lease clauses.

If your data centre provider has not already done so, they are likely to contact you in the near future with a view to sharing the carbon levy directly association with your energy consumption. Refusal to negotiate could lead to the termination of your contract.

Since the levy is on emissions resulting from customers' data storage and hosting, it does seem fair that data centres ask their clients to contribute. However, there are some key things that companies should bear in mind when negotiating with their data centre suppliers to ensure an equitable deal.

How to negotiate a deal

  • Ensure you review and are familiar with your energy and carbon-related legal and insurance responsibilities and liabilities.
  • Try to work with your supplier to achieve a pricing structure that incentivises you to choose more energy efficient service solutions -- for example, a reduction in the cooling mechanisms used in the data centre.
  • Ensure that the accounting assumptions that any levy calculations are based on are accurate.
  • Prepare energy projections for the next year. If your data centre provider is using fixed pricing, you should also discuss contingency within the price to allow for unpredictable future fluctuations in energy prices.
  • Remember to ask your data centre provider for transparency in terms of your electricity and gas consumption. This is particularly important if you are offered "direct supply," where you are billed directly by their energy provider for your power consumption.
  • Based on these figures calculate what you think the levy related to your energy consumption should be and check that the figure your data centre provider is using matches this.
  • It appears that some companies, especially those with global data centre suppliers, are off-shoring their data centre requirements to countries where there is no CRC equivalent and energy prices are lower. This a short-term view that may end up costing your organisation more, simply because many countries around the world are moving towards implementing CRC-type legislation and because reducing your emissions, which will result in lower CRC levies, will ultimately reduce your operating costs, regardless of CRC type schemes.
  • Finally, to ensure your organisation does not fall behind in its CRC compliance preparations, it is important to appoint a CRC responsible director who champions your CRC compliance plan within the organisation.

How to reduce your carbon emissions
Irrespective of legislation, lowering the emissions from your data storage and hosting should be a priority for your organisation. Not just for the sake of the environment but also for your bottom line.

An assessment of your current data centre infrastructure is likely to reveal underutilised servers and storage systems, devices that can be consolidated or virtualised with a direct saving in power and cooling costs immediately.

If your data centre provider has not already done so, they are likely to contact you in the near future with a view to sharing the carbon levy directly association with your energy consumption.

Simon Gay, Line of Business Manager for Data Centre and Storage Solutions, Dimension Data UK,

Data analysis is vital but often overlooked. It is likely that disks are spinning 24x7 simply to hold employees' personal data like holiday photographs. All this consumes power, space and other resources and is backed up daily or replicated to a second site. Introducing an archiving and tiered storage policy delivers a direct benefit to the green data centre initiative.

It is also important to consider the layout of the data centre, the location of the racks, the direction they face, the use of cold or hot aisle containment to reduce the area you are cooling or extracting hot air. Tiny details such as remembering to add in blanking plates on the rack so that airflow is controlled, fitting plastic curtains to control air movement, the use of free cooling, keeping the lights off and raising the temperature by a couple of degrees can make a huge difference. Increasing the temperature by just one degree can reduce your power consumption by 8%.

In short, even if you outsource your data centre provision, now is the time to reduce your carbon emissions, and not just because of the CRC. Once you take the first step, you will find that it is much less complicated and time-consuming than you might have thought.

Simon Gay is the line of business manager for data centre and storage solutions at integrator Dimension Data U.K. and a contributor to SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.uk.

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This was first published in June 2010

 

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