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Cutting data center power consumption isn't enough, report says

PCs, monitors and other peripherals use more energy than data centers, according to Forrester Research. Get the truth about data center power consumption.

When a company wants to cut its IT energy costs, the first and sometimes only stop is the data center.

But the data center isn't the prime culprit, according to a new report. Forrester Research Inc. has found that the average business actually consumes more energy outside the data center than inside. The news doesn't mean that data center managers and solution providers should abandon their green IT efforts in the data center; instead, they should take a broader approach to cutting energy use, Forrester analyst Doug Washburn said.

"The data center's honestly just gotten a lot more press," Washburn said. "And the data center in particular has been undergoing some out-of-space, out-of-power, out-of-cooling challenges."

Washburn surveyed 308 hardware decision-makers at North American and European businesses, and they said 55% of their IT electricity usage happens outside the data center, and 45% comes from inside.

North American respondents said the data center was responsible for 27% of their companies' total energy consumption. IT electricity use outside the data center accounted for 31%.

Forrester is not the only firm to spotlight energy consumption outside the data center. The Climate Group, an international nonprofit organization, has reported that PCs, printers and other peripherals accounted for 49% of all IT energy consumption in 2007, compared to 14% for data centers. By 2020, the firm predicts those numbers will rise to 57% and 18%, respectively.

But there's so much focus now on data centers because it's easier to measure and manage their energy consumption, Washburn said. IT energy usage outside the data center can encompass everything from PCs and monitors to lighting and HVAC systems. And getting end users to turn off their PCs and monitors -- or taking steps to automate that process -- can be a hassle for IT administrators and solution providers, Washburn said.

"It more or less has to be a policy," he said.

Still, taking those extra steps can pay big dividends. In a separate Forrester report, "How Much Money Are Your Idle PCs Wasting?" Washburn estimated that a business running 2,500 monitors and PCs could save $177,000 a year by optimizing its power management settings.

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