By Mandy Porter, Dell Business Unit manager at Drive Control Corporation
The sheer energy use of data centres is staggering. Consuming an estimated 61.4 billion kilowatt-hours annually in the U.S. alone, and producing more than 43 million tons of C02 each year, these power hungry entities have become one of the single largest industrial energy users.
Studies estimate that 40 percent and 60 percent of this annual energy spend is consumed on cooling systems. Plus, as data centres get larger, they are getting thirstier as well. Clearly, data centres represent the opposite of our so-called greener lifestyle approach.
Moreover, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) forecasts that data centres will double their cumulative power and water consumption levels by 2011 and every five years thereafter. This brings us to a legitimate question: is there enough water supply let alone energy to support power the hungry data centre?
The good news is modelling work conducted by leading IT vendors have concluded that technologies and policies available to IT managers today have the potential to reverse the trend of declining IT utilisation with resultant positive effects on data centre power consumption.
Therefore, the “greenest” data centre is not the one with the best efficiency with respect to delivering power to the IT equipment, but, instead, the one that manages to make the best use of the IT equipment it has commissioned.
Indeed, “green’ will be defined by the efficiency with which a data centre converts its resources into operations and technology delivery. Management of these facilities must focus on minimising IT waste – the key is to solve the problems of poor utilisation of IT assets and allocation of resources to relatively less productive equipment.
Modern manufacturing facilities go to great lengths to ensure that capital equipment is properly utilised, why should data centres be any less disciplined?
Practically, data centres enormous power usage can be prevented through the greater use of energy efficiency and power management tools. Making relatively minor, low-cost tweaks to software and airflow management could improve efficiency of the data centres by more than 20 percent relative to current trends by 2011, comments the EPA.
Furthermore, in the case of cooling, an estimated 40 percent of cooling costs can be cut by making simply modifications. For example, in many cases, cooling optimisation may allow one or more computer room air conditioners (CRACs) to be switched off entirely or placed in standby mode.
Most approaches will result in fewer fans, re-heaters, humidifiers, compressors and heat-ejection equipment requiring power.
Organisations can take the following approach to improving the power cooling within their data centres:
. Segregate hot and cold aisles;
. Implement efficient heat containment and power delivery strategies;
. Manage IT resources to get the most computing from the least power through:
1. Intelligent system management
2. Consolidation technologies such as virtualisation
The abovementioned will bring organisations closer to minimising the impact of their data centres and more importantly ensure that the predicated usage of energy is never realised.