Another key ingredient in AISO.net's energy efficiency success: server virtualization. "Everybody who comes to us allows us to take their physical servers and virtualize them," Nail says. Which helps explain why a "relatively small" data center with only "about 15 [server] racks" can support "thousands of customers worldwide," including the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and the Indianapolis Zoo - all powered only by the sun.
Be committed, collect incentives
It may be an extreme example but AISO.net points to an important lesson: When it comes to data center design and operation, dramatic and meaningful energy efficiency has to be a commitment, not a whim or an afterthought. "You can't just piecemeal it," Nail says.
Many organizations support energy efficiency initiatives, and an increasing number are data center oriented, such as The Green Grid (www.thegreengrid.org). Facebook's Open Compute Project (http://opencompute.org/) is backed by AMD, Dell, Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel, among others.
Energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy are not just feel-good initiatives; there are real-world deliverables in terms of federal and state tax incentives. One place to find out about those is DSIRE, Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (www.dsireusa.org).
Still, insiders say IT management too often takes a "not my job" attitude about data center efficiency. "It depends on who's running the budget," says Tony Cooper, IT product manager for Rittal Corp., which manufactures server cabinets and provides help with data center design. "I've talked with IT managers who don't care about their power - they're not measured by it, it's not in their budget." When it comes to energy, that's just bad policy.
John Soat is a freelance journalist who's been writing about the intersection of business and technology for more than 25 years. Reach him at email@example.com.