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If you're an MSP, are you a green MSP?

Here’s a question for all you managed service providers (MSPs) out there: How green is your data center?

Yes, I know, you don’t care. But, increasingly, your larger customers might make this one of their buying criteria, as they incorporate green IT sensibilities into their overall corporate strategies. Plus, it is in your interest to worry about energy efficiency because it can help you save some money over the long term and differentiate your message from the increasingly voluminous MSP crowd.

Consider the case of Steadfast Networks, a Chicago-based Web services and hosting company that has spent a serious amount of time thinking through the green-ness of the design of its latest data center. The first phase of the facility, which can handle about 600 kilowatts of IT load, employs 4 main techniques to keep things cool without jacking up the energy bill according to Steadfast CEO and founder Karl Zimmerman. They are:

  1. Opting for hot and cold aisle layout to keep air flows separate and so that the hot air can be consolidated and exhausted from the space more efficiently.
  2. Using variable speed fans that run continuously, but only at the rate right for the ambient temperature and environmental conditions.
  3. Keeping the data center temperature just a bit higher, which saves 5 percent to 10 percent of your energy costs off the bat.
  4. Investing in free cooling technology, which uses the outside air to keep things cool until supplement air-conditioning systems kick in.

Did this cost Zimmerman more money when he was designing the facility? The short answer is he says that some of these approaches, such as variable speed fans, currently DO cost more, although the prices are dropping quickly. But energy is his organization’s second or third highest cost, so over time the return on investment makes sense, Zimmerman notes. Incidentally, that ROI generally takes as little as a year, he adds.

Steadfast just enhanced its green credentials by forging a relationship with to help offset its carbon emissions impact even further. Another interesting item: Steadfast buys up to 90 percent of its technology locally so that it doesn’t have shipped as far. Which is another thing you might want to consider when sourcing equipment on behalf of your customers locally. The transportation and shipping industries account for something like one-third of all the carbon emissions and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. And Steadfast is using some of the latest most power-efficient processors and solid state drives from Intel as the basis of its servers. Says Zimmerman in a press release about the Carbonfund deal: “These new lines cost slightly more upfront, but they offer significant improvements in processing power per watt, which lowers the operational cost. We save a tremendous amount of power, which allows us to pass on better pricing to our customers while reducing our carbon footprint.”

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