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In business, IT infrastructure accounts for a disproportionate share of energy, relative to head count and operating costs. This means energy issues can significantly inhibit business innovation and growth for IT intensive enterprises. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world’s major data centers.


Power and cooling capabilities are maxed out in many data centres; expenses frequently outstrip the cost of IT equipment. Typically power distribution and cooling equipment consume as much as 60% of data centre power.

Large client facing IT firms are simultaneously trying to project a “green” energy image while striving to meet the needs of an ever-increasing server population.

Unsurprisingly leading internet firms such as Google, Apple and Facebook, are increasingly turning to renewable “clean” energy to serve their ever increasing demand. Just today, Apple said it would spend nearly $2 billion to build its first two data centers in Europe and they would run entirely on renewable energy. Earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the company plans to spend $850 million purchasing energy from a solar panel farm that is being built by First Solar in Monterey, California.

The two companies claimed the deal as the largest ever to supply clean power to a commercial user. The deal is structured as a power purchase agreement (PPA) over 25 years, meaning that Apple has agreed to buy the solar power at a fixed low rate over that term. At the Goldman Sachs Tech and Internet Conference, where Apple made the announcement, Cook said the deal “makes business sense” for Apple. The solar farm is reportedly being built for as low as $1.68 per watt.

It’s not only the unprecedentedly low cost of solar power attracting California’s internet giants, wind power is also breaking cost barriers. Google announced, two weeks ago, that its Mountain View headquarters would be entirely powered through renewable energy after agreeing to purchase 50% of the power produced at the newly redeveloped Altamont Pass wind farm.

NextEra Energy Resources, which is developing the new wind project, plans to install several hundred large modern turbines to replace many of the 4930 small turbines, which are due for decommissioning at the 35 years old wind farm. Google agreed to buy 43 MW, or 50%, of the total amount of wind power from the new project via a 20-year PPA. The new turbines will commence production in 2016.

However keeping up with data center power demand is a tall order. The massive data revolution underway within the energy industry alone serves as a ironic symbol of the increasing demand for data storage, and its subsequent power demands. Data centres will need to manage more than just supply to keep ever increasing demand in check. Efficiency throughout data centre infrastructure will be need to be intelligently designed into existing and future data storage facilities.

Divergence between IT and facilities management departments are often said to be the cause of inefficient design and practices in data centers. IT managers are typically concerned with the ability of the IT facility; space, power, and cooling capacity, to fully support server consolidation, virtualization, or high-performance computing initiatives and new equipment.

Meanwhile, facilities management groups have different priorities when planning data center development. In many cases, companies are literally running out of physical space because existing server racks are full, in addition to constantly maintaining and replacing physical components such as circuit breakers. Furthermore, they must consider power usage caps from the utility company as well as energy costs, which often exceed equipment costs.

With such a focus on energy there is a natural push for high levels of energy efficiency. Consequently, with the design of energy efficient infrastructure, businesses invariably come across the opportunities and benefits of Smart Buildings, increasing overall productivity beyond just energy use.

Smart building can foster the development of efficiency of the workforce through climate control, transportation and time management. It can streamline maintenance and stocking of replacement parts, reducing down-time, and all these elements link back to energy efficiency, and even productive use of wasted heat and electricity –

Energy is becoming substantially more strategic to data centres and the enterprises they support. Innovations that are being applied to the Smart Grid are finding their way into “the Enterprise” to improve energy intensive operations like data centers. Widespread development of smart data centres are also emphasising the benefits and broadening the scope for smart commercial technology.

Capabilities enabled by comprehensive data center infrastructure management systems lead to improvement, innovation and cost saving benefits for a data centre’s customers. Such innovations are shaping a new demand focused classification of Smart Grid called the “Enterprise Smart Grid”.

With the advent of the enterprise smart grid, energy can become a common currency of data centres in a borderless world.

Read more on The Market for BEMS and Enterprise Energy Management in our report –