Energy Efficiency

Gary Hull (Australia) - The Power Struggle

In Australia the cost of electricity is rising by 10% year-on-year, an expense that can quickly translate to vast sums for large Australian enterprises. In 2009 Gartner found that energy costs would emerge as a company's highest operating cost, second only to labour, in 70% of all data centre facilities worldwide.

With the cost of power rising dramatically and increased uncertainty about global power availability all levels of corporate management are more focused than ever on managing and conserving energy.

The saying "you can't manage what you can't measure" is particularly true for power, where rule-of-thumb estimates can turn out to be just plain wrong, leading to unnecessary and sometimes substantial costs. Nowhere is this more critical than in the data centre, as typically data centres use on average 25% of the total energy consumed in a typical large organisation.

Due to the increased pressure on CFOs to reduce energy consumption within their businesses some are even considering hiring in additional expertise to build information-based solutions that can manage energy supply and demand intelligently. It is also a time when CFOs have an increasing requirement for visibility of ‘big ticket' operating expenses, and so a new decision-maker has emerged - for power. Gone are the days when a company received a quarterly account from the energy supplier and ‘just paid it' without further understanding the origins.

Traditionally Facility Managers provision supply and distribution of power to cater for the needs of both a general office and ‘power hungry' data centre environments. Once installed facilities managers have the responsibility for ensuring reliable, stable 24/7power supply; the resulting power bill is typically expensed as a below the line cost of doing business. With the growth of critical IT infrastructure demands on energy supply and distribution, facility managers now also have the added burden of provisioning enough power to cope with increased demand.

IT departments often gain access to greater capital investments than many other areas of a business, as the outlay can be justified by the benefits of large-scale information processing that will be gained in return. Up until recently the cost of power has been understood to be a non-negotiable consequence of IT's organisational requirements. However times have changed and one of the largest investments made by IT organisations is not the ‘physical equipment' that traditionally populate a data centre, but for the electricity to power these devices.

The question that is currently challenging the majority of CFOs is whose responsibility is it to measure, manage and ultimately reduce the company's energy bill?

The fact of the matter is that the energy efficiency of IT organisations can be improved, and the first step towards improvement is to gain intuitive data and intelligence around how power is consumed, device level optimises potential and opportunity to implement change based on informed decisions.

Perhaps hiring an energy economist can actually be avoided if the company appoints a project team from its existing employees who already understand the energy management options available to the company and their financial implications. All that is required is a collaborative approach to reducing power consumption between both the IT and Facilities departments so that the power saving results will be seen across the entire office space and not purely in the data centre.


Gary Hull is Country Director for Raritan in Australia and New Zealand.



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