IT Is Greener When It Pays the Power Bill

Want to really cut energy use in data centers? Give the CIO responsibility for paying IT's power bills. That would create a big incentive to invest in energy efficiency, according to Dean Nelson, senior director of global data center services at eBay Inc.

"When the CIO is paying the power bill, [he] really understands the impact of the decisions being made," Nelson told an audience of data center managers at the Uptime Institute Symposium 2010 in New York last month.

Most CIOs don't see utility bills, but eBay lumps its power bills in with its IT budget, and as a result the company has been very aggressive in cutting power consumption. Nelson said that eBay's newest data center, a $287 million facility in Salt Lake City, was "paid for by the cost savings we've achieved [elsewhere] within the last two years."

In essence, eBay's IT department is "self-funding" new spending by being more efficient, he said.

Nelson said the IT department changed its metric for vetting technology investments from transactions per second to transactions per watt. That switch led to an increase in virtualization and a decision to move non-mission-critical applications out of Tier 4 data centers, which cost two to four times more to operate than standard data centers.

EBay upgrades its equipment every two years to get more-efficient models, Nelson said. And it uses Intel Nehalem processors, which offer greater performance on a per-watt basis than previous chips.

This story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an earlier version that first ran on

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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