Interview: Professor Ian Bitterlin, the Green Grid

Green Grid's Chair Ian Bitterlin discusses datacentre energy efficiency, role of DCIM tools and whether UK and EU CIOs are doing enough for datacentre efficiency

Professor Ian Bitterlin, the EMEA Technical Work Group chair at the Green Grid – the global consortium of organisations dedicated to advancing resource efficiency in datacentres – talks to Computer Weekly about datacentre energy efficiency in the UK and Europe, the role of datacentre infrastructure management tools in Green IT and whether CIOs are doing enough towards datacentre efficiency.

Computer Weekly: Are UK and European enterprises doing enough about datacentre energy efficiency?
Professor Ian Bitterlin: UK and European enterprises are particularly active in new facilities where the service level agreements are more flexible. For older facilities, there is still progress but it is slower.

CW: Have carbon emissions and datacentre energy use become some of the top priorities of CIOs today?
Bitterlin: It is a known fact that nowhere near enough CIOs see the electricity bill and, increasingly, CFOs are getting interested in energy costs. We are now seeing growing numbers of CFOs taking a keen interest in the performance of their organisations’ datacentres – after all, ultimately they are the ones paying the bills!

The Green Grid’s standards and tools can help CFOs maintain a good understanding of organising their datacentre’s energy consumption.

CW: Are organisations doing enough to comply with EU carbon regulations? And are these regulations helpful in making IT green?
Bitterlin: Organisations are simply doing what they have to under EU law. Generally these regulations don’t do any more or less to promote resource efficiency in IT environments than they do in any other sector. New initiatives such as Lot9 will, in the future, improve the targeting of energy saving in IT.

However, I’d also like to note that the term ‘green IT’ is only of limited usefulness – it is more accurate to say 'more sustainable' or with 'better resource efficiency'.

CW: Is PUE metric a good start for datacentre managers looking to make their datacentres energy-efficient?
Bitterlin: The power usage effectiveness (PUE) metric has become the de facto standard for measuring data center energy efficiency. It is a particularly useful metric for the datacentre manager looking after mechanical and electrical infrastructure - but it is not especially relevant for the ICT manager within an organisation. 

More on datacentre energy efficiency and carbon emission regulations

Complying with CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme: Best practices

Reducing carbon emissions leads to carbon-neutral services

How Capgemini keeps its Merlin datacentre green and energy-efficient

Why the Carbon Reduction Commitment is bad for datacentres

Green datacentre market to grow from £10bn to £28bn by 2016

Organisations will focus on datacentre efficiency in 2013, says Ovum

CW: Will the Green Grid launch newer metrics or standards to help IT improve datacentre power management?
Bitterlin: Yes, The Green Grid does have plans to launch newer metrics and standards for resource efficiency. There is increasing pressure on data center managers to take measures to reduce their organisation’s PUE measurement - but unfortunately, with the proper usage of PUE often being misunderstood, by focusing on this single metric, datacentre managers may be missing out on other opportunities to effect sustained reductions in energy use. Following PUE, we have announced additional metrics to complement it, including Carbon Usage Effectiveness (CUE) and Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE). These metrics are all designed to help data center operators assess the resource efficiency of their datacentres.

The Green Grid is also exploring new methods for renewable energy usage, for the re-use of waste heat, and for the recycling of hardware.

In addition, the organisation is working on metrics by which to assess ICT hardware productivity and energy.

CW: Will the use of DCIM (Datacentre Infrastructure Management) tools help IT make their facilities more energy-efficient?
Bitterlin: No, the current state of DCIM hardly goes beyond existing BMS/EMS and asset management tools - but it may make the decisions quicker to take.

DCIM brings together what used to be stand-alone functions such as datacentre design, asset discovery and management, capacity planning and energy management. In some cases, it even encompasses certain system management functions. 

DCIM had virtually no market penetration until 2009. But thanks to the highly dynamic nature of datacentres and the strong focus on energy efficiencies driven by, for example, power usage effectiveness (PUE) measures, DCIM is playing a bigger role in datacentre managers’ tooling strategies.

CW: What steps can the IT take to make their infrastructure green?
Bitterlin: To make infrastructure green, organisations should renew their hardware every 30-36 months. I would also advise them to choose Energy Star rated or 90+ servers, and to increase utilisation by heavy virtualisation. They should also contain the air with tight management and raise the inlet temperature to 27C - and then install a free-cooling plant, if they have not already done so.

Energy Star is a government-backed labelling program that helps people and organisations save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by identifying factories, office equipment, home appliances and electronics that have superior energy efficiency.

CW: Should datacentre managers explore datacentre cooling techniques such as free-air cooling, water cooling and evaporative cooling more?
Bitterlin: Yes, datacentre managers should explore free-air cooling, water-cooling, and evaporative-cooling more, particularly for new builds. There are fewer options for existing facilities, particularly those in city centres.

CW: What can utilities providers and mechanical cooling providers do to help enterprises save on power costs?
Bitterlin: For utility providers, there is nothing they can do to help enterprises save on power costs except reducing bills, but that is the wrong thing to do.

However, mechanical cooling providers are doing all they can. But it takes CapEx (capital expenditure) to purchase and most clients either want a return on their investment too soon or cannot upgrade their facility due to existing IT services.

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