Is there such a thing as a "green" data center today? Of course not. Data centers are the energy hogs of the IT world, and no amount of air-side economizers, hot aisle/cold aisle configurations, and intelligent power strips — the current trendy power-saving techniques — are going to change that any time soon.

But many tech companies are working to try to increase the energy efficiency of the data center, and they're making incremental improvements. The latest such effort is a collaboration between chip-maker Intel and power management software company FieldView. The two companies have developed a mechanism to measure and sub-meter power usage among all the servers in a company's data center, thus enabling it to make better use of existing space and cut costs.

Intel has developed instrumentation for its server chips that lets it deliver real-time power usage data, as opposed to the estimate or model of power usage that most servers provide. Intel Data Center Manager can extract real-time power readings and thermal readings off server platforms from OEMs such as Dell, HP, IBM and Cisco. It provides power capping across groups of servers. It provides serial number data for servers so they can be matched up with an asset management solution. The software also aggregates power distribution unit and uninterruptible power supply data.

According to Jeff Klaus, director of Intel's data center manager, the software supports non-Intel architecture, provided it has instrumentation that supports an industry power spec. Intel's market share for servers is 96%, Klaus says.

As of this week, the Intel tools have been integrated with FieldView 5.0 data center IT power management software to provide a real-time view of server power usage across the data center. The actual power usage tends to be 20-40% lower than the power usage server manufacturers tend to estimate. The net result is the data center manager can know that he could add additional servers and still remain within the power window available.

The providing of inlet and outlet temperature readings lets data center manager run their server rooms a little warmer. The FieldView software brings in the data Intel provides, normalizes it and provides an overall view of power use, overhead and inefficiencies.

"We found that some data centers are overcooled," Klaus says. "If you're spending $1 million on air conditioning, you could spend less. We can provide that data and be more accurate."

There are two primary ways to turn all of this information into cost savings, says Fred Dirla, CEO of FieldView Solutions. "Why build out a new data center that's several hundred thousand dollars per square foot, if you could optimize what you already have," he says. "From a capacity planning perspective, that's the biggest savings out of the gate. The second is optimizing capacity you have once you've identified it, that nets 10-15% of savings on average. You cannot do true capacity planning if you don't have the right data." A data center manager might be able to roll 20 more servers into a room that he thought was running at capacity, for instance.