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The green data centre – your journey starts now
Johannesburg, South Africa, July 04, 2011
Energy wastefulness and a dismissive regard for the environment are two issues that have enjoyed centre stage in the last five years. The world has awoken to the necessity of driving down not only the use of power but also thinking twice about how their operations are impacting the environment and society at large.
Companies now have to reconsider all implementations – ensuring that it does not result in any unnecessary power usage while also re-looking their current infrastructure and operational environments.
And one of the main focus areas or rather pain points is the corporate data centre which uses massive amounts of energy to keep the Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructures running. Indeed, data centres continue to expand as business’ requirements become more demanding which makes a strong case for implementing a greener infrastructure sooner rather than later.
If one considers there are currently estimated three million data centres in the world, with the figure expected to climb by nearly 50% by 2013, it is clear that a power conscious infrastructure will have an important role to play in contributing to a greener IT world.
However, despite the very obvious benefits of running a greener data centre whilst doing your bit for the environment, companies continue to be reluctant to take the first step.
Green data centres have to meet five important criteria: lower energy costs; lowering carbon emissions; realise cost benefits; meet regulatory requirements; and optimise effectiveness.
And it is these challenges that put a lot of organisations and the ICT teams on alert – it just seems like a lot of work and the well-known adage “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” starts rearing its ugly head.
Like any technology adoption, there is an initial cost implication when it comes to making your data centre greener – be it redesigning its layout, improving cooling or even migrating a percentage of resources to the cloud.
Also, some form of change management should be implemented to ensure the company as a whole understands the importance and the resultant changes that come with a greener data centre.
Unfortunately, a lot of organisations are reluctant to even take the first step, arguing that while their data centres might not be energy-efficient, they still do the job. They would rather wait for green data centres to be enforced as part of an industry-wide regulatory mandate opposed to taking the initiative on their own.
They continue to take a neutral stance instead of tackling the battles head-on that ultimately not only realise improved efficiencies but also contribute to a bigger picture – the globe’s efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. It’s a pity.
Keep your eye on the destination
So how do we change organisations’ perspective and make the task less daunting? The move to a green data centre can start with a few small steps. You don’t have to immediately outsource your data centre to the cloud or build a new, greener facility. It is really a journey (of a few years) with a clear destination.
Also, the good news is that ICT companies are also working hard to make the transition a bit less bumpy. A good example is T-Systems and Intel’s Datacenter2020 initiative which looks at how companies can make their data centres more efficient without stripping it bare and starting over.
For example, the first findings that the Datacenter2020 project concluded; that the energy consumption at data centres can be reduced using some fairly simple methods:
- The strictseparation of cold and warmair and the resultingoptimisation of airflow, whichallows for a reduction inthe fan speed of theforced air cooling device. Thisresult forms the basis forall further steps and mustbe implemented with comparativelycost-efficient measures.
- Increasingthe room temperature or inlettemperature. This measure shortensthe time for forced coolingand lengthens the time forindirect free cooling.
Also, in the very recently released latest findings of the DataCenter 2020 project “Data Center 2020: Delivering high density in the Data Centre; efficiently and reliably” were also able to show reductions in energy consumption in the first optimisation phase of the data centre.
The measures were straightforward and at a reasonable cost. The improved energy efficiency is mainly due to two effects:
1. The airflow was optimised through a strict separation of hot and cold air using a cold-aisle containment and reduced leakage from under the raised floor. This allows a reduction of fan speed (with an even greater reduction in fan energy) in the room-level air handling units.
2. The increase of supply air temperature to the raised floor (T1) and cold aisle containment; allowing a simultaneous increase in chilled water temperature reduced the amount of time requiring chiller operation and increased the time the data centre could operate in a free-cooling mode. The Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) was optimised by the team while keeping the server inlet air temperature well below the ASHRAE recommended IT inlet temperature (TR) of 27˚C.
With these measures, the Data Center 2020 researchers were able to reduce the PUE from 1.8 to 1.4 and still maintain a computer inlet temperature of 22˚C.
Both the findings require minimal capital investment and really offer practical ways of increasing power usage and optimising cooling.
Apart from the above findings, companies can also focus on optimising what they already have; for example, it is makes no sense to cool down an entire room just for one server. Look critically at the layout of your data centre and see where you can optimise usage by simply moving a few things around.
The bottom line is start making those smaller steps – use guidelines such as the Datacentre2020 initiative; you will find the journey really makes more of an adventure then a hazardous path into the unknown.