May 28, 2007

The “It’s not my problem” message

We’ve been taking the recent IBM Project Big Green announcement around the world. I’ll provide snapshots of my findings from customer discussions as we circle the globe. It will be interesting to see if our potential clients see this problem consistently or if differences exist around the world. We traveled across Canada last week and are visiting a number of cities across Europe this week.

I’ve run into one surprising problem that I had heard from customers before but I did not realize how potentially pervasive the problem was.

I would characterize it as "It’s not my problem." The conversations follow the following pattern.

Client … "I realize that our data centers are large power users within our corporation but we don’t have to worry about it."

Interviewer …. "Why would that be the case?"

Client …. "We do not get charged for the power we actually use….. The corporation charges all users a flat rate per square foot ….. So we are getting charged the same amount for our data centers as office space with the same square footage."

I know that this is not the case for many, many customers, but I’ve been surprised at how often this reason for not taking action has come up. It is surprising since a recent survey from one of the international specialist in this area showed that data centers use 15-30 X more energy per square foot then traditional office space.

In many cases cost allocations are simple processes that fairly allocate costs across organizations in an effective way. The costs are close enough to reality to encourage action that can benefit the corporation and its shareholders. Energy use is not one of those examples.

The challenge is that improved cost allocation accuracy may for many companies be difficult …I agree that there is a challenge at the user level and that solutions like the recent Tivoli billing enhancements are a step in the right direction. But at the data center level the actual cost allocation should not be that significant a challenge.

I would encourage CIOs to take action now and get the facts and start taking action. Given the increasing energy use and cost within the data center you have an opportunity now to take leadership or wait until your CFO and CEO start to understand the problem themselves and ask you to provide the solution.

Personally, I’ve always found the proactive approach works best.

by Steve Sams May 28, 2007
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