There has been a pretty big resurgence in the world of sustainability, especially in the data center sector. Initially, I was a little surprised, but there’s more substance to the movement compared with the pre-2009 economic crash that pretty much killed sustainability and green initiatives as a board-level issue.

Before the last recession, the green movement in the data center sector had gathered quite some pace. There was a lot of good work done by the BCS, Green Grid, EPA, LBNL, METI and others around metrics and tracking of how green a data center was.

green planet global
– Thinkstock

One metric to rule them all 

Indeed, it was this very movement that gave birth to power usage effectiveness (PUE), which has become “one metric to rule them all,” making it the J.R.R. Tolkien of the sector.

Back then, I was chairman of the BCS Data Center Specialist Group, and raising awareness of energy efficiency (or the lack of it) in data centers was best done by talking to environmental lobbyists.

Greenpeace started its Click Green Report in 2010, naming and shaming companies for how green their data centers “were not.” The Click Green program initially examined energy efficiency in the data center but has evolved to encompass a much broader scope since then.

Enter the recession

When the global economic downturn descended upon us, most of the less publicly visible corporations put green on the back burner and focused on saving money instead. In those days, data centers had a low public profile and fell into this group.

Keep it simple. We don’t need more metrics!

I have to say that this always seemed an unwise move to me. Any green initiative worth its salt, especially in the energy efficiency arena, should have a good financial return on investment (RoI) and not just “green brownie points” RoI. The issue was that many didn’t have the tools, context or knowledge to assess and build strong green and financial business cases that could stand up to scrutiny or any sort of third-party validation.

Thus I was very happy this year when my conversations with customers and other industry pundits once again started to include discussions about the green agenda – now referred to more often as sustainability, a term I prefer, as it encompasses broader issues beyond energy efficiency, such as water consumption, embodied carbon and sustainable construction practices.

Before everyone jumps back on the “we need more metrics” bandwagon, let me say, no we don’t! Stop. Put down the white paper draft on the new “super all-encompassing one sustainable metric to rule them all!”

Please just keep it simple and collect, track and analyze data indicating your energy efficiency, carbon emissions (this is a calculation from energy) and water consumption, and you’ll be well on your way to improving your data center’s sustainability.

And remember, simply believing raw data from sensors and instrumentation points is not an accurate representation of what’s going on (trust me, Romonet cleans and validates data for a living). But better data also helps service providers to allocate carbon emissions to their customers.

Sustainability is a board-level issue again, and claiming your IT is zero-carbon because it’s all in the cloud is not going to cut it in the public’s eyes.

Zahl Limbuwala is CEO of Romonet.

This article appeared in the October issue of DatacenterDynamics magazine