It appears from market surveys that server virtualization has become a mainstream technology: most operators of enterprise data centers have tried it and are moving to full adoption pretty quickly.
At the same time, in the two-and-a-half million or so server rooms and closets in the US, there isn’t much data available, though in a small study and anecdotally server virtualization and consolidation doesn’t appear to have much traction.
In California, where the major investor-owned utilities offered incentive programs for virtualization, the Energy Division, a unit of the California Public Utilities Commission devoted to protecting ratepayer interests, has ordered the end of these programs. (They were extended for some public sector customers, but have now completely ended.)
That decision has cast a pall over the entire country, with utilities deciding not to debut programs even though they might have poor market penetration in their service areas.
And more to the point, that atmosphere is leading to reluctance by utilities to address the server room and closet market, where a utility program could make a real impact.
Just as the decision to extend programs in California for public sector customers was in part a recognition that market penetration was lagging there, is there an opportunity to offer a program specifically targeting server rooms?
There are a few of ways to design such a program: limit customer participation by market segment, or by rate class (which can be a proxy for customer size), or perhaps simply by project size.
While the first two would work and would capture small and medium sized business, for example, they would exclude corporations that often have a large concentration of server rooms “hidden” in their real estate portfolio.
Offering a program that paid an incentive for the first ten or twenty servers removed per site as part of a server virtualization consolidation project would draw in the broadest swath of potential customers. If delivered through IT service providers, the program could truly target the “hard to reach” (that’s a standard utility program term, by the way) server closet market.
And though this program could still reside under a data center and IT market effort, there is some benefit to consider folding it into a commercial office program portfolio. Server rooms can often be a significant portion of the energy use in commercial office facilities but have never been addressed through targeted market programs.
It’s a stretch to think that commercial programs, which address lighting and space conditioning equipment, could encompass server room technologies and measures as well. But if you did, and included desktop infrastructure and office equipment as well, you’d truly have a comprehensive program offering.
The upshot is that while the IT industry focus on data center energy efficiency has been vigorous for the past six years or so, server rooms and closets are only recently gaining attention. Utility program managers have an opportunity to affect this hard-to-reach, dispersed infrastructure using innovative program designs that could legitimately include incentives for server virtualization.