The data center market is one of the few sectors that has held its own over the past few years — and there’s no indication it won’t continue to remain a solid player for years to come. As noted in our most recent BICSI Field Report (posted on the EC&M website), data center storage facilities are quickly reaching saturation, fueled by applications such as Internet protocol (IP) TV, audio file-sharing, Internet gaming, and mobile broadband. In a manual developed jointly by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and ANCIS, Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), data centers are projected to consume 3% of all electricity produced in the United States in a few years. So what’s being done to curb the appetite of this new breed of energy hog?

Unlike in the past, when data centers were being built at breakneck speed with little focus on energy efficiency, the IT industry is now highly focused on reducing energy expenses through use of new power and cooling technologies. According to a new “Green Data Centers” report issued by Pike Research, Boulder, Colo., the investment in greener data centers will increase from $7.5 billion in global revenue to $41.4 billion by 2015. Power and cooling infrastructure solutions will represent 46% of this total, energy-efficient IT equipment will make up 41%, and monitoring and management will follow at 14%. This renewed focus on monitoring and management activities was also recently revealed in one manufacturer’s data center users group survey, which included responses from more than 170 data center, facility, and IT managers in North America.

Although the focus of manufacturers to develop new breeds of energy-efficient equipment and systems is a crucial step in the right direction, the use of energy assessments will play a key role in realizing overall energy savings. But who’s qualified to perform this type of assessment, and what skill set should this type of individual possess? The DOE thinks this work is best performed by a Data Center Energy Practitioner (DCEP).

According to the DOE, a DCEP is an individual who is trained on performing energy assessments in data centers and transferring knowledge to the data center staff for allowing replication. Key skills include design, operation, and diagnostics experience as well as measurement equipment techniques and data collection. DOE’s goal is to have at least 200 practitioners on the street by 2011. The first group of program participants (13 generalists and 18 HVAC specialists) recently completed training and passed their exams, qualifying them to address energy-savings opportunities in electrical, HVAC, and air management systems; IT equipment; and on-site generation systems. The program calls for recertification of the practitioners every two to three years. Although the initial training and certification is being coordinated through the DOE, third-party professional training organizations will eventually deliver the training, exams, and certificates.

I applaud the efforts of the DOE and all of the supporting players in this endeavor. As a strong supporter of continuing education, I believe this type of training and the development of a group of certified practitioners is a step in the right direction in reducing energy consumption levels in data centers throughout the world. It’s definitely time to place these energy hogs on a lean diet in an effort to make them fit and trim.