Survey: Lack of Clear Industry Standards Slowing Green Data Center Initiatives

Corporate adoption of green datacenter strategies has stalled or perhaps taken a step back since last year.

by / April 22, 2008

Digital Realty Trust Inc., is reporting results from a new study of green datacenter trends that show significant changes since 2007. The findings are based on a survey of senior decision makers at leading North American corporations who are directly responsible for datacenter strategy, planning and technology.

"When we conducted our first green datacenter study last year, respondents expressed concern about the lack of industry standards for green datacenters. The impact of that concern is very evident in this year's survey. Companies are looking for leadership and clarity on how to define a green datacenter, how to design their green datacenter plans, and how to put them into action," said Jim Smith, vice president of engineering at Digital Realty Trust. "In the past, the question may have been how to convince companies of the value of green datacenters. The good news is that is no longer a problem. Companies are convinced. The challenge is that the datacenter industry needs to step up and show the way with clear standards."

Key findings from the research study are provided below:

  • 51 percent of companies have a green datacenter strategy, a decline since the 2007 study when 55 percent of companies answered the question affirmatively. This indicates that corporate adoption of green datacenter strategies has stalled or perhaps taken a step back since last year.
  • 82 percent of companies say there is no clear industry standard for green datacenters. This figure is up from 75 percent in 2007, indicating that there is more ambiguity than clarity in the industry. One area where there was broad agreement was in what elements an industry standard should comprise. The top two responses were: 1. 94 percent agreed that a standard should outline how to achieve efficient power usage (i.e. maximizing energy delivered to IT equipment by the facility). 2. 83 percent agreed that a standard should also outline how to enhance HVAC systems to use energy more efficiently.
  • In the absence of green datacenter standards, companies site LEED certification as the best alternative. More than 60 percent of companies look to LEED general building standards as a model for their green datacenter initiatives. The Green Grid was also cited as a resource for green datacenter initiatives, indicating that the consortium is gaining visibility and momentum in the industry.
  • Of the companies that do have a green datacenter strategy, 82 percent are taking a holistic approach that encompasses not only servers and other datacenter hardware, but also facility design and datacenter operations. This is nearly identical to the 2007 metric (81 percent), indicating that companies understand the value of taking a comprehensive approach that maximizes energy efficiency by addressing not just the equipment in the datacenter, but the facility itself.
  • Only 18 percent of companies are planning to include carbon credits in their green datacenter plans, down from a figure of 25 percent in 2007. This indicates that companies are focusing on directly reducing their datacenter energy consumption rather than displacing it through carbon credits solutions.

"We ... support industry-wide green datacenter initiatives by continuing to be an active member of The Green Grid," said Smith, "which is doing excellent work establishing standards and best practices for datacenter energy efficiency. And we will continue to be a leader in applying LEED and BREEAM specifications to our building design and operations. Although these specifications are not designed specifically for datacenters, they have tremendous value for institutional building owners like Digital Realty Trust. They provide a holistic view of how buildings impact our environment and a proven methodology for minimizing that impact."

Digital Realty Trust is also publishing results from a Europe-focused study of green datacenter trends. The European survey shows that green datacenter initiatives currently have greater momentum in the U.K., Germany, France, the Netherlands and Ireland. For example, 60 percent of European companies have green datacenter plans, more than 70 percent plan to make green upgrades to existing facilities, and a significant portion have already begun requiring their datacenter vendors to have a green strategy that meets their standards. The European study does, however, find that companies in those countries see a similar lack of industry standards, an issue that could slow momentum as it appears to have done in North America.