Data center energy costs and equipment efficiency have once again become the top-of-mind issues for data center managers, according to a fall survey of data center users from Emerson Network Power.

The fall installment of the biannual survey polled members of the Data Center Users’ Group (DCUG), an association of influential data center, IT and facility managers sponsored by Emerson Network Power, and captured input from more than 160 respondents across North America. The questions covered a variety of data center topics including energy efficiency, capacity constraints, third-party colocation providers, modularity, and heat and power density.

The survey results show that, for the second time this year, energy efficiency, availability and infrastructure monitoring are foremost on the minds of data center professionals. When asked to identify their top three facility/network concerns, 48 percent of respondents cited energy efficiency, making it the leading response to the question for the first time since the survey began in 2005. In spring of 2009, efficiency had reached the second position, and as recently as spring 2012, it was at the third position. Adequate monitoring and data center management (46.3 percent) and availability (45.7 percent) were second and third on the list of top concerns this fall.

“Many data center managers are turning to monitoring and data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools to provide the visibility they need to keep pace with growing capacity needs while working under the constraints of tightened budgets and energy efficiency initiatives,” said Bob Miller, vice president, Liebert global solutions, Emerson Network Power in North America, and a member of the DCUG board of directors. “This greater visibility is evolving data centers to a new stage of maturity marked by a more proactive approach to management that gives data center managers unprecedented insight into operations and allows them to explore ways to reduce energy consumption and meet growing demand without risking downtime.”

Along with energy efficiency, capacity issues continue to threaten to strain resources and negatively impact performance levels. Forty percent of DCUG respondents said they expect to run out of data center capacity by 2014, with another 29 percent expecting capacity constraints by 2017. As in previous years, the survey also shows that data centers are running out of power and cooling before they run out of physical floor space. Thirty-five percent of respondents cited power as the primary factor limiting data center capacity, while 16 percent cited cooling. Only 12 percent gave floor space as the primary factor.

The survey also shows that organizations are looking to third-party colocation providers and integrated solutions to help them expand and meet growing capacity needs. Thirty-eight percent of respondents reported having decided to colocate either their entire data center operation or a portion of it. When asked if they have implemented any integrated solutions, respondents indicated that that they already implemented or plan to implement IT enclosures (17 percent), power enclosures (11 percent) and integrated rack infrastructures (11 percent). An even greater number of respondents stated that they are still considering the options (21 percent for IT enclosures, 23 percent for power enclosures and 34 percent for integrated rack infrastructure).

Additional responses include the following:

• Sixty-two percent have already, or are currently, analyzing their energy efficiency. Another 19 percent said they will be conducting an efficiency analysis in the near future.

• When asked who they turn to first for expertise in power and cooling system design, 23 percent and 28 percent of respondents cited power and cooling sales representatives, respectively.

• Forty-five percent already have implemented wireless technologies in their data centers and another 25 percent are considering doing so.

Emerson Network Power uses the data from the DCUG survey to track market issues and inform programming at future DCUG and industry events, such as the DCUG Fall Conference held Nov. 12-14 in Orlando. Presentations focused on efficiency presented by experienced users and IT industry experts included, “Saving Energy in Your Data Center, Regardless of Budget,” “Innovations in Data Center Management: Using QR Codes to Improve Efficiency and Control” and “Optimized Electrical Designs: Balancing Efficiency and Availability.”