Data Centers

Three tips for greening the data center

The electricity required to run a data center is often one of the biggest overhead costs a company faces every year. Here are three tips that can help lower those costs.

Data centers use a tremendous amount of energy. In fact, the electricity that is required to run a data center is often one of the biggest overhead costs a company faces every year. Besides the cost concern, the amount of energy used to power data centers all over the world is just plain bad for the environment.

These days, IT managers responsible for data centers are getting pressure from all directions. The CFO is slashing budgets. Operations needs more server bandwidth. Facilities want to earn LEED Certification for the company by the end of the year.

Peter Skae, of Skae Mission Critical, an APC Elite Datacenter Partner, offers these three tips that data center managers can do to help achieve all these goals:

1. Right size your data center.

Data centers are often oversized for a variety of reasons. It is difficult for IT professionals to project future load based on the rapid changes in technology. This leads to projections based on current technology and best guesses. It is important to right-size the data center infrastructure. Data centers should be designed in a scalable, modular fashion that allows for the necessary growth without oversizing the UPS and cooling systems.

 

2. Cool closely.

Moving air conditioners to as close to the servers as possible will significantly reduce the energy needed to power them. It's common sense. Why cool the whole room or center if it's really just the servers that need to be cooled? In-row and overhead cooling systems create increased efficiency and reliability. These systems coupled with containment systems ensure that the hot air is contained and properly returned to the AC system. The departure from the perimeter cooling-only model has increased cooling efficiency and energy consumption markedly.

 

3. Test regularly.

Proper testing of the data room's energy and cooling systems directly affects their efficiency and availability throughout their life cycle. It is important that critical systems are tested to verify that they were installed, calibrated, and perform according to owner requirements and project documents. As the data center operates, a measurement and verification program will provide for the ongoing accountability of data center energy consumption over time.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

5 comments
Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

...we have discovered the joy of "rightsizing", but not in the way most would approve of. Consider this: what is the cost of waiting another eighth of a second for the mailserver in exchange for never having to dink with the server hardware or software? How about the same for CRM and web services? Yes, I'm talking about moving mail, hosted apps, and web services to a hosting company... and letting them worry about the power we burn and cooling the equipment. We do have some local infrastructure. The file server, groupware server, and print services are local. We run a VoIP server locally, even though we could outsource this as well. We like the granularity possible with local control of the VoIP services. This has replaced a full rack with about 12u of combined server and network. Keeping consumption down, our servers are dual core Intel Atoms with as much RAM as we could shove in them. The system works, and responds with "snap and authority" according to one of our managers, while sipping power. According to the current draw measured by the PDU, the whole rack consumes less power than any one server prior to our upgrade. This lower power means less power is turned into heat. We literally no longer need to independently cool the rack; locating the rack near the building core where the temperature is a touch cooler and stable, using filtered ambient air keeps things well within the nominal range. The disadvantage is that we are more dependent on the speed and stability of our broadband connection. The result of an outage is the same, but if the connection degrades or our host goes down we can also go down. We feel that the benefit is well worth the risk. Our new datacenter serves 20% more users consuming less than a tenth of the power, and in the last year we enjoyed 99.999986% uptime.

Treker
Treker

"A REAL computer has ONE speed and the only powersaving it permits is when you pull the power leads out of the back!" I blurt. "In fact, a REAL computer would have a hole in the front to push trees into and an exhaust pipe out the back for the black smoke to come out of."

ahsommer
ahsommer

How much does using a java virtual machine to run your application add to the cost of running the data centre? 25%? 50%

robo_dev
robo_dev

Since many JVMs run on the client, and the clients are not in the data center, then you save power, no? I've never seen any evidence to support the argument that Java is inefficient and adds to data center loads.

RealGem
RealGem

If all the JVMs are on one computer, it makes no difference. A computer that is on and running consumes just as much power as one that is on and doing nothing. The only exception might be that the disk drive will work more on a busy computer. Using VMs, e.g. VMWare, will save money. Instead of multiple smaller servers, each with their own fixed-power-consumption-overhead, you only need one. If you can virtualize five physical servers onto one physical host, then you can reduce your power consumption by nearly a factor of five.

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