I must admit I look forward to the Uptime Institute’s annual Global Data Center Survey with the same high level of excitement that people of my grandparents’ generation must have anticipated the arrival of a new Sears Roebuck catalog.

After all, the pages of each are chockfull of useful information and both are read and re-read over the subsequent months until next year’s version comes along. In the survey’s findings I’m always glimpsing some trend or direction that we can apply to our business and how to help our customers improve theirs. Of late, I have been pondering repeatedly a data point that, coincidentally, Andy Lawrence, executive director of research at Uptime, called out in his recent blog.

For the first time in the dozen years that Uptime Institute has been tracking industry-average power usage effectiveness (PUE), efficiency actually worsened. What? I’m with Andy on this: How can this be possible?

Over the years, the PUE metric has gained acceptance as an industry standard for keeping track of energy performance in data centers around the world. It has just been expected that with all the technology advancements mixed with increased emphasis on controlling power consumption that the results would continue to improve.

The most recent Uptime survey revealed, however, that the average PUE was 1.67 in 2019, after coming in at 1.58 last year. (Like golf, we’re aiming for the lowest score possible.) For further explanation, a PUE of 1.5 means every watt into the IT systems, requires half a watt for cooling. But as another Andy—Patrizio—stated in a Network World article on last year’s survey, “lowering PUE is something of an obsession among data center operators.”

Having confidence in Uptime’s findings—and knowing that the respondents are top-echelon data center staffers and IT management—how can we extrapolate this finding? First off, if PUE evaluations have a shortcoming, it’s that they don’t sufficiently take into account important factors such as our environment (hey, is anyone else thinking it’s getting hotter and hotter out there?), energy productivity and hardware efficiency.

What this year’s PUE survey finding really means is perhaps we have come to the junction where we have gone as far as possible with legacy technology utilizing decades-old thinking and practices. Simply put, there is no foreseeable path for previous-gen data centers to compete with the new technologies and procedures at work in today’s hyperscale centers or state-of-the-art colos. As Uptime has stated, these types of facilities sport PUE scores of 1.1 to 1.4 (on a 1.0-is- perfect scale).

Therefore, data center designers, operators and owners must deploy new ways to improve their IT and facility efficiency. Steadily emerging technologies such as Software Defined Power (SDP) represent a great opportunity in this effort.

As facilities’ hardware is upgraded, SDP’s advancements make it possible for data centers to create a layer of abstraction that empowers the ability to better match power resources with data centers’ evolving energy needs. Taking a more proactive approach to managing power as a crucial resource in a Software Defined Data Center delivers the kind of cost savings that cannot be overlooked or undervalued in this PUE-obsessed world.