Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The data centre manager’s green dilemma

A guest post from Chris Smith, Sales and Marketing Director, on365

As enterprises examine mounting energy bills and ask if their IT really delivers, there has been a big push to re-engineer UK business systems and their underlying IT infrastructures to be more energy efficient. The data centre in particular has come under scrutiny owing to their high energy consumption rates that according to reports, amount to between 2.4-3.1% of the total energy consumption in the UK. By 2020, it is predicted that carbon emissions from data centres will have quadrupled.

The need to adjust business operations while ensuring continual availability of core applications, has forced IT and facility managers to look for innovative ways to be ‘green’ and cut costs. Coupled with new taxation such as the CRC EES, and rising energy costs, data centre manufacturers are developing key tools to help data centres run more efficiently.

The potential energy saving is vast, which isn’t surprising, given that the maximum power used by UK data centres annually is enough to power six million homes. The green dilemma has been brought into the spotlight due to the potential reputational risk from services ‘falling over’ and tighter regulations forcing operators of data centres to adopt more efficient operations, data centre managers need to quickly get to grips with it all.

American industry body ASHRAE has taken a big step towards reducing energy usage in the data centre. It’s Thermal Guidelines for Data Processing Environments, include running certain types of data centres at hotter operating temperatures and humidity levels than is currently the norm. ASHRAE’s guidelines, if properly implemented, could pave the way for increased savings in the data centre with the upper limit raised to 45˚C for short-term periods. The industry has witnessed new monitoring, cooling and powering tools with manufacturers such as Dell and HP leading the way.

The unofficial yardstick for measuring a data centre’s energy efficiency is Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE). Although it has brought credibility to infrastructure operational practices, PUE does not offer a transparent or detailed picture of a data centre’s computing workload and energy use. The industry is moving beyond these first generation measures to a more integrated monitoring approach, particularly data centre infrastructure management (DCIM). DCIM integrates IT and facility management to create a centralised process that is able to monitor and manage systems in real-time across all aspects of the data centre. This allows IT and facility managers to achieve a far more effective analysis of data centre power usage, which in turn will improve corporate decision-maker understanding of equipment performance and power usage in their data centres.

Despite the hype surrounding the building of data centres in areas of spectacularly low ambient temperatures, including the Arctic Circle, it isn’t necessary to go to such extreme lengths to reduce energy demands and green your facility. In the UK it is possible to make use of innovations such as adiabatic or fresh air cooling methods to maintain consistent temperatures in the data centre. When one considers that cooling systems in the data centre account for around 44% of total energy consumption it shows the potential for organisations to make considerable energy savings.

In the wake of rising energy costs, increasing compliance and environmental pressure, data centre managers need to come together and opt for more efficient, less energy-wasteful strategies.

© The Green IT Review

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