by Michael Bullock

Four Reasons to Get IT and Facilities on the Same Page

May 18, 20094 mins
Data Center

Maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part but I really believed that the Berlin Wall between IT and facilities had been torn down a long time ago and that in corporate America these groups were generally aligned.  Okay, maybe IT and facilities weren’t holding hands and singing “Kumbaya,” but at least they were talking to each other and beginning to understand where their mutual interests lay.  But at the IT Roadmap Conference in Boston last week, I realized how far off base I really was.

While I’ve been busy blogging about power usage efficiency (PUE), ultrasonic humidification, green data centers, the power density paradox and the like, it seems I’ve been operating on the mistaken premise that most IT execs are reasonably aware of how much running their data centers costs in electric power. I also assumed that these execs were at least somewhat motivated to make improvements, especially when doing so would entail no risk to operations and paybacks could be achieved in months, not years.

But no such luck. Most of these IT guys have no idea that they’re probably spending as much dough each year on the electricity to run their servers as they’re paying to buy new ones. Most have no clue that for every dollar they’re spending to run IT systems, another dollar (or more) may be wasted by facility inefficiencies. 

According to Johna Till Johnson of Nemertes Research, a full 87% of the IT execs Nemertes interviewed (more than 2,500 from Fortune 2000 companies) said they didn’t know their data center energy costs.  And that, Johnson says, includes the 97% who said they’ve consolidated or virtualized their data centers. “Basically,” she concluded, “nobody knows their data center energy costs.”

But I bet your facilities group knows.  Why?  They know because they’re the ones being asked to reduce the electric bill by the CFO while the CIO asks them to provision more services even though they’re fast approaching the limits of available power and cooling.  And they know because they’re the ones paying for the rising maintenance costs caused by systems constantly running above their designed load limits.

In other words, the facilities guys know what you IT guys should know, what you need to know to do your jobs properly. So stop being clueless and get on the same hymn book page with facilities. And if you need more reasons, check these out:

  • Much of the OPEX you’re wasting on power can be recovered and goes directly to your company’s bottom line.  You can continue to ignore this at your peril.
  • Whether you know it or not, you’re probably running out of power and cooling and ideas like migrating to higher density systems or containers are not going to solve your problem; they may, in fact, make it worse.
  • If you think that the increased maintenance resulting from constant duty cycles of facilities infrastructure isn’t your problem, think about the fact that these systems are more susceptible to failures that may result in full data center outages.
  • As your company strives to become a more responsible corporate citizen, IT will come under the microscope. There will be pressure to reduce your company’s carbon footprint and increase corporate sustainability. As these initiatives gather steam, IT and facilities will be heroes or goats. There’s no middle ground for either group.

This is a great opportunity for IT to take a leadership role and drive the changes that will save money, increase capacity and reduce your company’s carbon footprint.  The only way for IT to do this is to get beyond thinking about facilities as simply square footage and maintenance. At the same time, the facilities group has to stop regarding IT as pointy-headed know-nothings. Working collaboratively is the only way IT and facilities can solve their mutual challenges.

As always, I welcome your comments, tips, insights and topic suggestions.  You can reach me at

Michael Bullock is the founder and CEO of Transitional Data Services (TDS), a Boston, MA-based consulting firm focusing on green data centers, data center consolidation / relocation, enterprise applications and technical operations.  Prior to founding TDS, Bullock held executive leadership positions at Student Advantage, CMGI and Renaissance Worldwide.