Scottish IT loses plot on green data centres

Scotland is set to become a top location to build energy-efficient data centres despite the fact that few of its businesses have a clue how much energy they use to power their IT, a study has found.

This interesting paradox can be found at the heart of a new survey of 100 senior executives for IT consultancy Morse, which notes that 88 percent of them admit they have no idea how much energy their IT department or business operations consume.

Without such data, few will be able to gauge the real level of their carbon emissions or make the case for investment in the energy-efficient infrastructure about to be built in the country by private companies, the authors conclude.

The report uncovers a degree of confusion about the ‘greening of IT’ that probably reflects a wider problem across the whole of the UK. Executives appear to want to reduce carbon emissions, not least to make some headway with regulations such as the government Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), but are unsure how to go about it, or whether the investment can even be afforded in the midst of a recession.

Forty-one percent have no targets to reduce energy use, 48 percent are worried about costs, and 65 percent buy IT equipment on a departmental level, a patchwork approach that Morse reckons is likely to lead to inefficiency and waste.

According to Grant Niven of Morse, physical limitations on IT growth in traditional hotspots such as London are where the UK is starting to see minds change. “The people running out of capacity are the ones starting to do something about it,” he said.

London’s data centre industry could no longer guarantee energy capacity, physical space or even in some cases international data capacity, which was causing builders to look to locations without these constraints. But businesses themselves were not yet reacting to these limitations, and the Scottish survey is a case study in how far UK businesses still have to go.

“There has been so much emphasis on stripping out cost. But through being focused on power consumption, you can actually start to reduce costs,” said Niven. “Setting targets, measuring against them and then billing individual departments for their energy consumption is crucial because it increases accountability, giving departments the incentive to become more energy efficient.”

None of this bodes well in the short term for the builders of new data centres in Scotland, which has seen record levels of proposed investment in the last two years, driven in large part by the fact that Scotland currently has a surplus of energy and land capacity to spur development. Equally, creating energy-efficient new capacity is probably a prerequisite for creating an environment in which today’s chaotic procurement and energy measurement mentality will start to change.

“Scottish businesses need to stop simply paying lip service to the green IT agenda,” said Niven.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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