Five ways to create a greener, more efficient data centre

With the hype increasing around designing, building and maintaining smarter, more efficient data centres, just how well are today’s data centres actually doing?

According to Doug Washburn, an analyst for IT infrastructure and operations professionals at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., “in most cases, data centres, from a green and energy perspective, are quite inefficient in their use of energy.”

Washburn said these inefficiencies arise because often there isn’t one particular person responsible for monitoring energy efficiency. Usually, he said, there’s no budget specifically tied to the data centre, so it’s often the organization’s facilities department that picks up the tab.

Lack of awareness

What’s causing some of these data centre inefficiencies? Washburn said that when observing data centres, 30 per cent of servers are considered “dead,” meaning the CPU utilization is three per cent or less. So even though the servers are plugged in and they’re not using a lot of power, they’re still consuming a “significant amount” of energy, he added.

Temperature inside the data centre

Another common mistake organizations make when is around temperature.

“Server storage network gear is able to run at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, yet most data centres are in the 65 degree range,” he explained. “This is a lot cooler than they actually need to be. Based on a client I cited in my research, they increased their data centre temperatures from 69 to 74 degrees and were able to cut cooling costs by 12 per cent.”

Bernard Oegema, a data centre consultant at IBM Canada, said all data centres, regardless of their size, should have some sort of measurement solution in place.

“If (you) have information on where power’s consumed or not utilized, (you) can maximize efficiencies and minimize energy usage in the data centre,” Oegema explained. “If you don’t have the information, you tend to overreact and put in things like more hardware, just to be safe. With the right information, you can avoid some of these situations.”

Implement a metering solution

Oegema suggests using a metering system to not only measure power consumption, but also bring awareness and visibility into the organization. Metering, he said, can be done in one of two ways: via branch circuit monitoring, or measuring through the PDU (power distribution unit). In addition to metering, Oegema said software should also be used because metering brings awareness and the software brings the intelligence.

Ask questions and conduct energy audits

Channel partners can offer their customers metering solutions and they can also wrap energy management software around it, Oegema said. Partners can ask their customers questions such as, “Do you need to build your own data centre, or can you use a collocation facility? Where is the building located? Are the systems being fully utilized and if not, can they be consolidated or virtualized? And so forth,” Forrester’s Washburn suggested.

All partners should conduct energy audits for their customer’s data centres to identify just how much energy, power and cooling is being consumed, Washburn added. He also suggests looking at alternative methods of cooling instead of using traditional air conditioning.

“Liquid cooling is more efficient as a cooling medium,” Washburn said. “It’s similar to older mainframe technology where (you) run chilled water to the device and it cools the device instead of using air conditioning.”

Talk to the right people

When having conversations with clients, partners should also involve not only the data centre manager, but also the chief information officer and the chief financial officer, who often act as bridges between the IT and facilities budgets. The CIO, for example, may be the person who’s responsible for developing the organization’s energy and green IT plan, while the data centre manager will inform him or her what’s possible and what isn’t.

Follow Maxine Cheung on Twitter: @MaxineCheungCDN.

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Maxine Cheung
Maxine Cheung
Staff Writer, Computer Dealer News

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