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Are data centers really meant to be green?

I was chastised this week by an attendee at a panel I was moderating in San Francisco for using the term “green” to describe strategies intended to better manage energy usage within a data center.Data centers cannot be green because they aren’t meant to be, my audience member declared.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

I was chastised this week by an attendee at a panel I was moderating in San Francisco for using the term “green” to describe strategies intended to better manage energy usage within a data center.

Data centers cannot be green because they aren’t meant to be, my audience member declared. For one thing, storage and server hardware doesn’t take kindly to be switched on and off, he said.

OK, this person is in the actual business of integrating networks and enterprise storage solutions for a major systems integration and IT consulting company and I most certainly am not. So I won’t argue with real-world experience. But I don’t happen to agree that environmental issues are hogwash when it comes to data centers.

Forget the green term if you must, but the movement to better design and manage data center facilities is unstoppable for two very real reasons: energy costs continue to rise while capacity continues to become increasingly constrained.

That’s why I’m always really interested in green technologies that support this philosophy. And it's why I agreed to speak last week with Ken Oestreich, product management director for Cassatt, a green tech company in San Jose, Calif.

Cassatt’s latest software, called Cassat Active Response, is designed to do pretty much what you would expect it to do. That is, it monitors and responds to server utilization levels and takes action to power them down depending on what an administrator tells it to do. The brains in the product is something that Cassatt calls Active Power Management.

Idle servers use at least half as much power as active ones, according to Oestreich, which makes for some serious low-hanging fruit if your company is looking for ways to ratchet back power consumption. Not addressing the situation is the “moral equivalent of leaving your lights on,” he says.

While some businesses are beginning to adopt better power management discipline for their desktops and other client hardware, they can realize an even larger per-system savings by addressing their servers as well. Oestreich quotes figures from an Environmental Protection Agency report on data centers suggesting that the average savings per server could be between $100 and $200, compared with $40 to $60 per PC. The version 5.0 standard edition of Cassatt’s software is priced starting at $200 per managed machine.

I absolutely think Cassatt is worth your attention.

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