When the New York Chapter of the AEE asked me to address their group on the subject of data centers last year, I struggled to develop a message. After all, aren't we in data centers somehow above the world in which energy use and savings can be measured in watts and fractions of watts?

Then it struck me that the difference between corporate energy managers and data center energy managers is perspective and experience. 

In a data center, if the power goes down, business goes down, and profits are hurt. In a hospital, if power goes down  people may be hurt. 

In a data center, reducing energy use saves money and may create more compute capacity. In a manufacturing plant, reducing energy use saves money. 

In a data center, LEED certification can be achieved by incorporating innovative design ideas and installing bike racks. Same in an office building. 

In all sorts of facilities, negotiating low energy prices is as important as saving energy to the bottom line. In many states, employing renewables can be a way to reduce energy use and lower energy prices. I don't mean to overlook all the differences between the two industries, servers after all are not light bulbs. Still when I address the AEE again in early May, I plan to point out how the two tasks resemble each other, the like levels of urgency, and the similarity of the management and regulatory challenges.

In addition, many corporate energy managers have a decade or more of making hard choices, testing new technologies, and moving in uncharted waters. Some even faced the hard choice of running their own physical plants or using the ESCO model of operations, which resembles Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) in a pretty uncanny way.

If the ultimate goal is to save energy and reduce the carbon footprint in data centers then data center operators can afford to focus on the unique technology challenges posed by increasingly dense data centers. The rest of the technical challenge can be imported from other industry, in myth the same way that operators of data centers, nuclear plants, and space shuttles can improve reliability by sharing techniques and analysis.