Bank group stumped by rising IT power consumption

Despite investing €170m to develop a sustainable datacentre, Citi has admitted its IT equipment is consuming increasing amounts of power
Written by Andrew Donoghue, Contributor

Banking group Citi is on the verge of completing a major sustainable-datacentre project, but has admitted that the power requirements of its IT equipment are continuing to rise by 12.5 percent per year.

John Killey, head of realty services for Citi, told an audience of IT and financial specialists at the Finexpo Green City event in London on Thursday, that, although the organisation has seen energy consumption remain flat or even fall in some areas, electricity usage by IT equipment within its datacentres is continuing to increase.

"We are seeing major problems from consumption of electricity," he said. "Although we are seeing energy consumption staying static or reducing from an engineering perspective, there was a 12.5 increase [in electricity consumption] in our datacentres last year."

Killey, who oversees the development and construction of new facilities for the banking group, said that the rising energy consumption of the group's IT equipment was down to the efficiency of the computer systems in each facility, rather than the design of the facilities themselves.

"There has been no increase to the envelope — just to the technology. Why is that happening? No idea. I am not a techie," he said. "I will have to look to you tech guys to help me. At the end of the day, I am bound by the laws of physics. I have to look to you guys to get the most computing power out of a kilowatt of power."

Citi has recently completed the construction of at least two new sustainable datacentres, including, most recently, a facility in Frankfurt. Citi announced the building of the facility in July last year and apparently earmarked €170m (£86m) for the construction of what it claimed at the time to be "one of the greenest datacentres worldwide".

In a statement announcing the Frankfurt project last year, Citi claimed the datacentre will save up to 25 percent on electrical energy consumption compared to conventional datacentres and 16,000 megawatt hours each year, the equivalent of powering 3,000 family homes for a year.

The Frankfurt facility has not been fitted out with IT equipment yet, according to Killey. However, he claimed that, when it is up and running, the addition of an energy-efficient facility will go some way to tackle the increasing overall power consumption of the group's IT infrastructure.

Killey admitted that, while new sustainable-datacentre projects are admirable, such datacentres do not tackle the problems poised by existing, less efficient sites. "This is all well and good when it comes to building new datacentres, but it doesn't answer the question of what to do with existing datacentres and I don't have the answer to that," said Killey.

The Frankfurt facility is a 100,000 square foot, 1,000W-per-square-metre datacentre, which has been designed to make the most of sustainable building practices, according to Killey, who said the site had capital costs of eight percent less than a conventional site. The site will also save around 11,700 tonnes of CO2 per year. That figure is equivalent to the yearly carbon output of around 900 UK citizens and would cost around £100,000 to offset, according to ClimateCare.

Design features of the Frankfurt facility include wooden cladding on the outside of the facility and a so-called "green roof", with grass planted in a layer of earth on top of a plastic membrane.

"The green roof makes sense," said Killey. "The design gives us better performance in terms of life; burying [the roof] under a great wodge of earth increases roof life. It is insured for 40 years and there are benefits to ecology through rainwater attenuation and reuse."

In May 2007, Citi announced what it claimed was a $50m project to address climate change. The organisation claimed it will invest up to $10bn to reduce its own environmental footprint.

Citi claims to have 200 million customer accounts worldwide and owns brands including Citibank, CitiFinancial, Primerica, Smith Barney and Banamex.

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