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“Data centers are one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy, and correspondingly, one of the fastest growing users of energy. Cloud computing and virtualization are driving densities higher while data centers are growing larger to address rapidly expanding demand. Digital leaders Facebook, Google, and Apple are helping create a more sustainable future for the Internet and the growing sector of government, companies and people whose data resides in the cloud.” – Sustainability in Today’s Data Center, Data Center Knowledge, April 26, 2012

That was the opening paragraph from my first column for Data Center Knowledge last April that spawned many future columns on data center topics such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, LEED Certification, Energy Star for Data Centers, financial impacts of sustainability, and water usage in the data center. After all of this discussion, are we any better off from a sustainability standpoint now than we were 14 months ago?

The answer is a resounding YES! Data centers of all sizes and types are moving their thermostats a little higher, following the lead of ASHRAE TC 9.9, and saving on their energy bills accordingly. Google has topped the $2B mark in renewable energy investments worldwide and partnered with Duke Energy in North Carolina to create a new rate plan that allows the customer to purchase their energy from renewable sources. More and more data centers are recognizing the value of certifying their facility through the LEED or Energy Star for Data Centers program. Data centers are also tracking their water usage more closely using the Green Grid’s Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE) metric. And finally, companies are realizing that the green that really matters is money and are taking advantage of the energy efficiency incentives that are available nationwide.

Sustainability in the data center begins and ends with energy efficiency. Take advantage of the low hanging fruit and implement the items that have an ROI in the weeks and months, and then proceed to the longer term investments. It’s also worth noting that sustainability has a strong branding value. If done correctly, sustainability is a profit center, not a cost center.

Keep an eye out for future columns on Data Center Knowledge and blog posts here.