With the hottest topic in Higher Education over the last twelve months being tuition fees, the “Green Agenda” seems to have been very much ‘off the agenda’. But the issues haven’t gone away and the sheer number of government initiatives intended to reduce energy usage, carbon emissions, and other environmental impacts in universities and colleges can seem overwhelming.
ICT is often vilified as one of the ‘bad boys’ of energy consumption and with the Government’s Green IT Strategy being published, it is bound to be under the spotlight once again. A recent study conducted by Jonathan Koomey* at Stanford University has found that power consumption by data centres has not grown at the rates that were predicted back in 2005. The main reason for this, however, is not improved efficiency but lower demand due to the worldwide recession. This means that the efficiency improvements still have to be tackled but it also means that with 5 years of new technology development under our belts there should now be plenty of opportunities to reduce energy usage in data centres.
Higher Education Institutions have already moved to virtualised infrastructure to improve energy efficiency but the reality is that the growth in compute and storage demand is in danger of outstripping the energy reduction that can be achieved by virtualising.
So what else can be done? Hardware efficiency is improving by the day and any organisations running computing infrastructure that is over two years old would benefit from significant efficiency savings simply by upgrading to the latest equipment. This is a huge investment though and meanwhile many university ICT departments are working flat-out to maintain old kit in even older data centres.
Outsourcing should provide a solution here - large scale third-party data centres and cloud providers can use their scale and regular technology refreshes to provide real efficiencies in both cost and energy usage. You might take advantage of these scale benefits in a couple of ways. A traditional co-lo contract can place your kit in a secure, resilient and energy efficient third-party data centre and may include provision of on-site “intelligent hands” for kit maintenance. Alternatively you can look to procure ‘infrastructure-as-a-service’ where the tin is entirely the supporter’s responsibility. Either way, you’ll want a trusted partner – but you’ll also want a sound exit strategy, just in case.
Stephen Butcher is CEO of Eduserv
[*Jonathan Koomey study - http://www.eweekeurope.co.uk/news/recession-saps-data-centre-power-growth-35777]