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Colleges Are Slowly Making Data Centers ‘Greener’

Colleges are working to make their data centers “greener,” though power use by the facilities has dropped only slightly compared with last year, according to a new survey by CDW Government Inc.

Out of 152 college tech leaders surveyed by the technology company, 74 percent said their institutions are developing programs to routinely monitor and reduce the amount of energy consumed by their data centers. The previous year, only about half that number— 36 percent—responded in the same way.

The efforts appear to be making at least a small impact: Sixty-one percent of those surveyed reported cutting their energy expenses by at least 1 percent in the past year. That’s up 7 percent over 2009.

Oscar Ramos, executive director of technology services for the Lone Star College system, recently gave a talk about greening IT facilities at the annual conference of Educause, the higher-education technology group. He said green initiatives are popular at colleges and are often championed by incoming students.

He sees room for improvement, though, even at colleges working to go green. The survey found that only 13 percent of respondents tracked power-usage effectiveness, the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended standard of measuring data centers’ energy efficiency. Tools that can measure power usage to that standard can be expensive, he said.

Though he said such monitoring may be a large time investment for many IT departments to make, he anticipated this number would grow as more universities prioritize energy-efficiency initiatives.

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