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Data centers fail to become greener, studies say

Efforts to improve IT efficiency are failing despite rising energy costs and high-profile pledges by major tech companies, according to two studies.

Despite high-profile pledges by major tech companies to green the grid, efforts to improve efficiency in data centers remain stunted, according to two recent studies.

Fifty-one percent of companies have a solid plan to green their IT operations, down from 55 percent in 2007, according to a study released Monday by Digital Realty Trust. The company owns and manages corporate data centers.

But highly publicized efforts to improve data center performance and design include those of the Green Grid consortium of tech bigwigs such as Microsoft and Advanced Micro Devices. The Climate Savers initiative, backed by Google, the World Wildlife Federation, and dozens of other organizations, aims to halve computing power consumption by 2010.

Click on this image for an image gallery of independent, green product labels.
Click on this image for a photo gallery tour of efforts by Silicon Valley data centers to go green. Elsa Wenzel

An overwhelming and growing majority surveyed by BPM expressed a need for industry standards for efficiency as well as for heating and cooling systems. Given the absence of such guidelines, more than 60 percent said they turn instead to green building standards from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design from the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council.

However, 80 percent noted that they look at a broad number of factors to green data centers, taking into account hardware as well as the design and operations of the overall facilities.

Fewer company representatives expressed plans to pursue carbon credits to make up for their operations' emissions: 18 percent in the recent survey, showing a drop from one-quarter in 2007.

IT power consumption cost at least $1 million for 20 percent of respondents, and upwards of $10 million for 8 percent of them. The study contacted decision makers at companies with 5,000 or more employees in March.

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And although power demand by data centers doubled between 2000 and 2005 , the Business Performance Management Forum found a similar lack of efficiency improvements in its study released earlier in April.

Three-quarters of those surveyed graded themselves a "C" or worse for green computing, and 65 percent said they lacked precise plans for improvement. But nearly half of respondents noted that their use of IT-related energy grew in 2007. Forty-six percent even ran out of space, power, or cooling systems.

A Forrester report in March predicted that spending on green IT services will grow by 60 percent each year to $4.8 billion by 2013.