Power Struggle

The IT department buys the technology; facilities buys the energy. That's the way it's always been in corporate America. But that may be changing.

As energy costs seesaw wildly and public concern over the environment grows, data centers are landing in the corporate cross hairs. And IT managers may find themselves on the hot seat, asked to account for the energy costs their systems incur. Some forward-thinking companies are even beginning to wonder if it isn't time for their IT and facilities departments to merge.

Should CIOs get ready to add "energy czar" to their lists of job roles?

Management think tank McKinsey & Co. seems to believe as much. In a study presented last year at the Uptime Institute's Green Enterprise Computing Symposium, McKinsey called on companies to move accountability for facilities operations to the CIO and to appoint an internal energy czar to better focus on the true cost of data center ownership, which includes both equipment and facilities expenses.

Jonathan Koomey, a data center energy efficiency expert at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, agrees with the basic premise of the McKinsey study. But Koomey believes that energy costs should be managed at a level above both IT and facilities so that the person with that responsibility "is able to make a decision about total costs, rather than having his or her own budget in mind."

And energy-minded corporations themselves? Computerworld's spot check found that rather than making one person accountable, most organizations are scattering responsibility for energy efficiency through several organizations -- IT, facilities and even marketing.

The Energy Czar

Google Inc. is the only major U.S. corporation we found that currently employs someone called an "energy czar," although the czar is not directly responsible for data center costs. "My focus is on 'greening' Google's energy supply," explains Bill Weihl, Google's green energy czar for the past two and a half years.

Weihl's goal is to figure out how Google can use more sources of renewable energy and how to use that energy more efficiently. But when it comes to data centers, his role is advisory.

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