DALLAS, Texas — Companies should look closely at how they can save energy and money by reconfiguring their IT hardware now, rather than waiting for advanced technologies to take root; some companies will find major savings only barely hidden in their data centers.

At the AFCOM Data Center World conference last week in Dallas, IT managers and experts said that simple reconfigurations can help free up energy and space that are in short supply in data centers today.

Mark Monroe, Sun Microsystem's director of sustainable computing, said that his company was able to simply turn off almost 10 percent of its servers, which no longer served any function, but were left on for legacy reasons.

Monroe called this "data center drift" -- when a server is installed to run an application, eventually that application is no longer needed and is turned off, but the server remains on, serving no purpose but to use power and take up space.

Monroe cited a survey Sun conducted of two companies that eventually found 504 of 4,300 servers were "mystery machines," and when turned off, had no impact on operations. These kinds of simple, easy to implement solutions will be more important in coming months and years, it became clear at the conference.

Another speaker, Andrew Fanara, who heads up the EPA's Energy Star Product Specification Development group, said at the conference that regulations to speed up energy efficiency in data centers would not be coming from the federal government any time soon.

"We think the there is a federal role to be played here, but we think it's as a catalyst," Fanara told the conference, as quoted by Shamus McGillicuddy from < http://searchcio.techtarget.com/originalContent/0,289142,sid19_gci1272797,00.html" target=new>TechNews. "This is no time for command and control from the federal government. We hope we can help drive energy efficiency."

Without government-mandated regulations to set energy efficiency specs, voluntary programs like Energy Star will remain the industry standard. Although the program has been highly successful, a lack of guidance from the federal level is likely to slow the pace of innovation on the energy-efficiency front.