As the world's eyes turn to Copenhagen for the climate change summit, there will no doubt be considerable attention to the way that the IT industry will help shape future developments.

While, the humble data centre has not had as much publicity as power stations or the airline industry, IT equipment is no small contributor to global carbon dioxide emissions. IT managers have slowly come to realise that they have a part to play in reducing energy consumption - a realisation that was initially driven by the need to save costs but now, faced with variety of pressures, including government legislation, IT executives are looking to become more proactive in these initiatives.

Mike Manos, senior vice president for technical services at Digital Reality Trust, is a veteran of the data centre world. Formerly with Microsoft, where he was responsible for the company's containerised data centre design, he's widely recognised as a guru of the data centre world and he has plenty to say about the evolution of the data centre in a world where energy efficiency is going to be the order of the day.

While he acknowledges the Copenhagen summit as important, Manos doesn't believe that much of the debate will focus on the IT industry. "It's going to be important but it's not going to have a direct impact," he says.

But he says, while the Copenhagen discussions do not have any direct impact on data centre design that's not to say that managers aren't aware of the importance of introducing energy efficient systems or are unaware of the impact of discussions between governments. "Managers always used to rate reliability and redundancy as the most important features of a data centre - not any more, they don't. That's slipped right down and energy efficiency is now number one. That's not going to change - we're going to see more regulation from governments in the coming years."

Manos sees the current discussions over carbon emissions as driving a fundamental change in data centre design. "They've looked much the same for years," he says, "but the data centre of the future is going to be very different. I don't mean that they're going to look like giant spaceships but there will be fundamental differences," Manos adds.
Underlying this change will be a shift in the way that IT is going to be driven higher up the food chain says Manos. "In the future, IT managers will have to account for all the energy their departments consume."

Manos gives an illustration of the basic problem. "I give a lot of presentations and always ask my audiences the same question: how many of you are power of your IT systems and the answer's always about 10 percent of the audience. Then I ask, ‘how many of you are measuring the power efficiency of your IT systems', the answer's generally about one percent of the audience and then I ask how many CIOs see the power bill - and if I'm lucky, there's one person."

The traditional separation between IT and facilities management is just an example of the type of problem that that CIO has to face in future. He will now have to consider issues that have not been part of his remit before and that could mean altering perceived wisdom too, says Manos. "It's been a given that all data centres need air conditioning but that's no longer the case. Is it possible to use outside air within the building?" he asks.