Rackspace and Data Center Efficiency

Our Greenspace initiative is an umbrella for all of our environmental and efficiency programs at Rackspace and one of the key areas of focus within Greenspace is data center efficiency. In May of last year, I posted an article over on the Rack Labs blogabout Rackspace joining an industry consortium called The Green Grid. The Green Grid was launched in February 2007 and today has over 150 members. The primary mission of GG is to advance energy efficiency in data centers around the world and as Rackspace is a big believer in running efficient data centers, it made a lot of sense for us to participate in this forum. We joined the group as a contributing member in March of last year and we’re proud to be one of the few hosting companies on the membership roster.

A couple of weeks ago, Troy Toman and I attended The Green Grid Technical Forum in San Francisco. This was the largest gathering so far for any Green Grid conference. In attendance were GG members, the press and industry analysts, governmental policy makers, end users, and members of other green energy constituencies. At this event, the GG presented a progress report of what we’ve been working on over the last year.

Here’s the punch line: There are no silver bullets for operating a green data center. In fact there is not even a good definition of what a green data center is yet. There is no one correct answer, no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, and no simple technology solution to make data centers become magically efficient overnight. It will take focus and hard work to get more efficient but the good news is, as evidenced by the attendance level at the conference, that there are lots of folks working toward the goal.

The right answers to driving up efficiency, and the themes that were presented over and over at the GG conference, are the development and adoption of industry standard metrics and measures, best practices, and technologies. The old adage “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” was a common theme with any of the speakers at the forum. One of the big goals of the GG is to get to a standard methodology of measuring data center efficiency that can be used by operators to benchmark their facilities.

What is Rackspace doing? Rackspace is taking a common sense approach to data center efficiency and “green-ness.” We have come to realized that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and the only way to get more efficient is through lots of small wins. Here are a just a few of the things that we’re doing both with customers and behind the scenes to drive toward a more energy efficient data center:

  • Implementing the measurement and monitoring recommendations that are coming out of The Green Grid forum.
  • Looking for opportunities to replace old data center equipment with new, more efficient gear as replacements are needed.
  • Experimenting with new technology, design principles, and process solutions to improve data center efficiency.
  • Pushing our vendors to use energy saving technology within the equipment we buy on our customer’s behalf.
  • Recommending that our customers use equipment that falls in the sweet spot of performance and efficiency.
  • Developing virtualization and infrastructure services that are more energy efficient than the traditional dedicated hardware approach.
  • Buying renewable energy where it makes sense. Rackspace does this through NativeEnergy.

We’d love to here what other companies, especially companies with data centers or large infrastructures are doing about these issues.

John Engates joined Rackspace in August 2000, just a year after the company was founded, as Vice President of Operations, managing the datacenter operations and customer-service teams. Two years later, when Rackspace decided to add new services for larger enterprise customers, John created and helped develop the Intensive Hosting business unit. Most recently, John has played an active role in the evolution and evangelism of Rackspace's cloud-computing strategy and cloud products. John meets frequently with customers to hear about their needs and concerns, and to discuss Rackspace's vision for the future of cloud computing. John currently serves as Chief Technology Officer. John is also an internationally recognized cloud computing expert and a sought-after speaker at technology conferences, including CA World, the Goldman Sachs Techtonics Conference and Cloud Expo. He speaks on the future of cloud computing, enterprise cloud adoption, data center efficiency, green data center best practices, and more. Prior to joining Rackspace, John was a founder and General Manager at Internet Direct, one of the original Internet service providers in Texas. John is a graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio and holds a B.B.A. in Accounting.


  1. Hey John,

    Interesting blog post however, I was disappointed about the lack of specifics in the steps you say Rackspace are taking.

    I am a director of Cork Internet eXchange – a hyper energy-efficient data centre based in Cork, Ireland. We have a blog at cix.ie where we have talked about the steps we have taken to make our data centre so energy efficient.

    I have given talks at several international conferences on this topic also – here is a link to my most recent presentation on the topic: http://www.slideshare.net/TomRaftery/reducing-a-data-centers-carbon-footprint/

    Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or comments,




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