But even if you're not ready to move your datacenter, there's plenty you can do to save energy and money. Johnson said that her first recommendation to everyone is to use virtualization, and to use more of it if you're already doing it.
"Virtualization is good for you," she said. "It is the broccoli of technologies. If you want more agility, virtualization can deliver it. If you want to cut costs, virtualization can do that. You want to lower power use? Virtualization!"
She noted that although many enterprises have virtualized some applications on their servers, few have virtualized desktops -- and that's not always a mistake.
"Desktop virtualization won't necessarily lower costs," she admitted. Other related aspects of virtualization deliver also fewer benefits, but are still valuable, she said. They include virtual applications, live migration, OS standardization, and implementing network storage.
Among the firms she surveys, 55 percent use fibre channel for storage, and 27 percent use iSCSI, but iSCSI is gaining traction, she said.
She had one word of warning, however: She said that some organizations are so eager to implement virtualization that they are neglecting virtualization security.
Experts also had a range of suggestions for future technologies and approaches that enterprises should consider when it comes to their datacenters.
Take flywheel technology, for example. Johnson said that a company from her home state of Texas has developed a product that was initially intended only for the most demanding customers, but that it has adjusted its product line to meet demand from every market segment. Active Power's flywheel product stores energy under normal conditions and converts it back to energy when power is cut.
"Flywheel devices bridge the gap between line power and backup and help during brownouts," Johnson said. Additionally, Tishman Technologies' Bowman said that datacenters need to plan to generate a portion of the power they use.
"The best way to protect the integrity of data from shortages in the market is to generate at least 25 percent of the load with a green energy solution," he said. "Enterprises should consider cogeneration, solar power, wind power, geothermal power, bio waste, and hydrogen fuel cells."
Bowman also discussed a more radical solution: the use of nuclear technology. He said that a 600 kilowatt (kW) or 700 kW nuclear generator could cost $1 billion to $3 billion to build (with full quadruple redundancy in the equipment) but that the electricity it generates would cost only $0.04 per kWh.
"I'm a fan of nuclear," he said. "It's fossil fuel on crack."
But some new approaches are far less radical. If you're building a datacenter now, Bowman added, you should raise the ceilings, especially if you're building on cheap land.
"Let's think about getting the heat out as much as we think about getting cooling in," he said.
All these plans might be easier said than done at most firms, Johnson said, since doing so involves new responsibilities for the IT team.
In many enterprises, IT has already taken over facilities management. But she added that the union of the two groups was initially more about security than about energy management.
"IT was the only group willing to step up to handle the infrastructure risk," she said. "Security might be video over IP or biometrics, but all of a sudden, it required the IT team. With today's smart buildings, IT is even more involved in facilities than ever before."
Still, if cheaper and more efficient datacenters are on the horizon, IT will have to take at least one key page from the playbook of the traditional facility management organization.
"Few IT teams plan as far ahead as five years, and many don't plan farther ahead than one year," Johnson said. "Datacenters have to last for 20 years. If the IT team had to forecast that far ahead, they'd have no idea. They'd say, 'We'll be flying around in little jet suits or something.'"
This article was first published on InternetNews.com.