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BLOG: Finding the right energy efficient solution for data centres

Peter Adcock | Nov. 12, 2013
IT and facilities departments need to work hand in hand to identify a holistic approach to maximise energy savings in the data centre.

When it comes to the energy efficiency of your data centre, there is a simple premise: companies that use their maximum design load are more efficient that those who don't. Given that data centre energy efficiency is directly related to occupancy rates, a modular design is a solid solution for enterprises that don't plan to occupy the entire facility for several years. This approach can reduce the inevitable cost impact of under-utilisation.

Proper capacity planning and design can also significantly reduce your risk of unnecessary space and power wastage. In this instance, total space and utility capacity is designed and built upfront. However only individual sections are fully outfitted with UPS, generators and cooling equipment. This saves both upfront capital costs and recurring maintenance expenses while the facility has redundant capacity.

IT and facilities departments need to work hand in hand to identify a holistic approach to maximise energy savings in the data centre. Even the newest and most efficient technologies will only be successfully deployed if these key departments share knowledge and cooperate appropriately. And as energy consumption continues to grow with rising data usage, companies that give serious consideration to site selection, and data centre infrastructure design, will prosper.  

Understanding energy efficiency

Like aviation fuel costs for an airline, the energy cost of a data centre is critical. It can account for 50 percent of the total cost ownership (TCO) of the data centre. A data centre's initial capital costs are directly related to the levels of redundancy (Tier 2, 3 or 4) of its power and cooling infrastructure. The higher the level of redundancy, the more equipment is needed to avoid infrastructure equipment failure, which will harm the operations of your computing equipment.

The maintenance of extra equipment also generates recurring costs, which are likely to increase in the long term, based on current and foreseeable trends.

The business case for Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE)

For the majority of data centres, the typical utility capacity and generator capac­ity must be about 2.5-3 times the critical load capacity. If operating efficiency is improved, it lowers the total power capacity re­quirements for the facility for the same critical load. This means that a data centre with a PUE of 1.3 may only require a utility feed and generator capacity of 1.8-2 times the critical load.

The data centre industry has had great success with The Green Grid's Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) metrics, which provide insight and guidance about the physical infrastructure, power distribution and cooling architectures. Comparing the total facility power, with the power used by IT equipment, data centres should strive to achieve a PUE that's close to 1.0, which is considered a theoretically perfect, 100 percent efficient energy usage - the holy grail of data centre power consumption.


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