Who among us doesn’t remember that the collapse of the technology sector bubble seemed to usher in the recession that began right after the Y2K boom? Sure there were dramatic intervening events that shook our faith in the U.S. economy, but many dot-com enterprises collapsed quickly once investors realized the extent of the unsustainable P/E valuations and the number of poor business models in the sector.

How different things are today. The technology sector, especially the data center side, seems to be a model for the rest of our economy. Economists may debate whether the collapse of the housing bubble or wild speculation in the oil and gas markets proved the defining event towards the current downturn, but the data center industry is proving a bulwark.

Yes, the industry faces its share of troubles, but unlike these other sectors, the data center industry has the wherewithal to face these problems while helping restore confidence in the businesses that depend on data centers.

How Is This Possible?

I have heard data center professionals argue that enterprises should credit their data centers for their role in reducing energy use and carbon emissions over the whole enterprise, rather than being metered separately. They argue that shopping online at Amazon takes less energy than driving to the mall, and that the carbon credit and billings should be recorded that way.

For years, the utility industry has promoted smart meters as the basis for changing the energy buying habits of Americans at home. The installed base of meters has lagged, but so has the utilities’ ability to collect all that data and provoke a response. American homes similarly do not include appliances equipped to respond quickly to utility price signals. Rising electricity prices could change all that, but not without a surge of IP-addressable appliances, new smart meters, and more capable utility computer systems.

I plucked these examples from the world around me. I hear my neighbors complain about the rising cost of getting to work. Thanks to a data center, I have no commuting costs because I work at a home office. Now I see that the New York State state government wants to have more workers report to an office only four days a week to help them fight gasoline charges. It’s a good idea, made possible only by the Internet.

In the same way, companies will rely on their data centers to help them reduce overall costs by increasing automation and productivity, but also by continuing to enable new products and lines of business. These companies may even have to increase their IT spending to capture potential savings from virtualization, consolidation, and other strategies as higher energy costs have certainly begun to affect the costs of running data centers.