Energy-related costs account for approximately 12 percent of overall data center expenditure and are the fastest-rising cost in the data center, according to Gartner, Inc. Analysts said that data center power, cooling and energy supply, and cost problems are likely to worsen during the next few years as organizations grow their technology infrastructure as they emerge from a recessionary period.

"With upwards of 5 percent growth for server shipments predicted per year over the next two years, organizations need to forcefully control their energy consumption and costs," said Rakesh Kumar, research vice president at Gartner. "To do this, data center operators need to measure energy-related data across the whole site, including the building, the facility's components and the IT equipment portfolio."

Gartner analysts said continuous power utilization efficiency (PUE) readings will become the norm for most large data centers, and by 2015, 80 percent of new large data centers will report continuous PUE readings across the data center.

"However, despite the wide availability of measurement tools, experts and consultants on the topic, data center operators struggle with the best place to measure the energy in their data centers," said Mr. Kumar. "What is needed is a breakdown of the ideal approach to data center energy management into a pragmatic approach that will provide sufficient information for most operational planning purposes."

To get a comprehensive, accurate and real-time record of the energy used in data centers, users need to measure across six areas: building, electrical facilities, building facilities, racks, IT hardware and virtual machines (VMs). By measuring across these areas, data center operators can obtain a highly detailed, comprehensive and, in most cases, a real-time usage picture of the energy that is being consumed across the whole site.

Gartner recommends developing a pragmatic approach to data center management, whereby the six areas are prioritized and divided into three main segments.

"Energy management across IT hardware, racks and electrical facilities should be tackled immediately, while measurements across data center building facilities and buildings will be necessary mainly for hosting providers that want to charge customers specifically for energy usage," Mr. Kumar said. "Measurement across VMs will happen during the next four or more years, becoming relevant when users want to examine the energy associated with a workload and when that workload is running in a separate VM."

The Gartner Data Center & Operations Summit will be held November 22-23 in London, and the Gartner Data Center Conference will be held December 6-7, in Las Vegas.