Data center operators see the need to adopt efficiency and sustainability - but it's mostly customer demand that is making them act on it, according to a report from 451 Research.

Only 26 percent of operators say that efficiency and sustainability is a highly important way to differentiate themselves now, according to a survey of 800 data center service providers sponsored by Schneider Electric. However, that changes to 57 percent three years from now, according to the report, and the top driver for this change is the fact that an increasing number of customers are demanding that operators play their part to help the environment.

Since you demanded it...

Although service providers are making their infrastructure more sustainable, the report, produced by Daniel Bizo at 451 Research, says the main motivation is customer demands: "The primary motivation behind their initiatives is to meet customers’ requirements, most of which expect contractual commitments. 451 Research believes this factor will become even more powerful as large technology companies and major enterprises, which together command large swaths of datacenter demand, mount pressure on their MTDC providers in their pursuit of reducing carbon and water footprints under growing regulatory and public scrutiny. MTDC operators will have no choice but to comply or risk losing valuable business."

Multi-tenant data center operators are doing better than general data center operators, according to the report Multi-tenant Datacenters and Sustainability, perhaps because running the data centers is their core business. Despite this, only half of them have a DCIM (data center infrastructure management) suite, so they are unable to monitor the efficiency of their facilities. Only 56 percent give reports on efficiency metrics to senior management. Less than half (43 percent) currently have sustainability initiatives, and only a third track the carbon intensity of their electricity purchases.

Nearly all the respondents (97 percent) said they have customers who are asking them to commit to sustainability, and that was the top reason for acting. Other reasons for acting included government regulations - and concern for their own company's future viability.

The survey looked at 800 retail and wholesale colocation providers in two dozen countries, dominated by the US, the UK, China, Germany, India, France, Australia, and the Netherlands.