Lisa Rhodes, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Verne Global (, says:

A couple weeks ago we started our three part series (see part 1) taking a deeper look at some of the trends we feel will shape the data center industry today and throughout 2011. In our last post we discussed the importance of improving business efficiencies within the data center so it seems only fitting that we turn the tables and focus on energy efficient monitoring and impending regulation.

Regulation isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, the data center industry is behind in regards to certification and regulation. In anticipation of federal legislation, self monitoring is on the increase. For example, the Green Grid recently released their concept for a CUE, a carbon usage effectiveness metric for the data center. With the PUE metric already widely accepted, the Green Grid continues to spearhead the movement to fight ‘dirty’ data centers. Now with a CUE metric, data centers will not only have to look at power efficiencies, but will also have to take carbon usage into consideration. Take Facebook, for instance. Facebook has been blasted by Greenpeace for using coal to generate electricity and is now caught up in a battle to “Unfriend Coal” and embrace clean energy. Facebook’s rationale has been that they have a very low PUE and because of it, boasted that they were one of the most efficient data centers in the world. Given the new CUE metric though, it seems like Facebook will be friending operators such as Yahoo! and Google who use renewable energy sources to power their data centers to get some ideas on cleaning up their power. The Green Grid also has a third metric in the works, WUE, that measures water use for cooling purposes. Provided that these metrics take off in a way similar to the acceptance of the PUE metric, we can expect that data centers will become the baseline for the regulatory efforts to achieve environmental friendliness.

Aside from Green Grid guidelines, regulation at federal and state levels is looming. While Britain has delayed its flagship Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) program by a year or two and the United States cannot seem to get a cap-and-trade law passed through Congress, don’t be fooled – carbon emissions, power generation, distribution and consumption are definitely on government check lists. The 2010 Uptime Institute Symposium highlighted this issue in numerous discussions on the affect of pending carbon legislation on data centers. Although symposium speakers stated that data centers are an unlikely target, the message that they will be impacted was clear. As large energy users, data centers are easy targets and with a high carbon footprint it’s not surprising they are on the radar screen. Yahoo alone stated that 75 percent of their carbon footprint was from data centers and shared that they had already taken steps to improve the numbers. A potential larger area focus in 2011 will likely be on the Clean Air Act and President Obama’s introduction of a Clean Energy Standard he referenced in his State of the Union address last month. Under the proposal, “By 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy source.” Should the Clean Energy Standard pass, data centers would be forced to use renewable power sources such as wind, solar, hydro, clean coal or natural gas. Data centers will need to start taking factors such as location seriously as they confront the issue and work to improve energy efficiency.

Carbon regulation is not the only game in town. Other data center areas including security, workplace safety and zoning are ripe for regulation as well and we’ll likely see the beginnings of those conversations in 2011. While efficiencies are improving in everything from chips to chillers, data centers are very much an energy consumer making them a prime target for energy and ultimately carbon regulations.

Verne Global is a regular contributor on Data Center Post