6 Steps to Boost Data Center Power and Cooling Efficiency

Increased energy efficiency in a data center can be reached without major changes to IT equipment or facilities. Here are six ways to get there.

By Megan Santosus
Fri, October 07, 2011

CIO — A study released this summer by Stanford University professor Jonathan Koomey pegs growth in energy use among U.S. data centers at 36 percent from 2005 to 2010 — which is slower than some had predicted but nonetheless significant.

In a down economy where every dollar saved is precious, it's worthwhile to take a look at how to increase energy efficiency in data centers, especially since in many cases significant energy efficiencies can be had without major overhauls to IT equipment or facilities.

1. Determine Your Usage

The first step to becoming more energy efficient is to find out precisely how much electricity your data center is using overall, and where specifically that electricity is consumed. "My first recommendation to CIOs: conduct an assessment of your data center to quantify what your energy use is," says John Tucillo, president and chairman of the board at The Green Grid, a non-profit consortium dedicated to promoting resource efficiency in the data center.

The Green Grid's power usage effectiveness (PUE) metric essentially involves dividing the total power used in a facility by the power used by IT equipment. "You don't need to be sophisticated to quantify basic energy consumption," Tucillo says, "and understanding the PUE in your data center can provide some perspective on how you can be more efficient."

2. Check Out Your Bill

Another fairly straightforward place to launch energy efficiency improvements is by looking at the data center's utility bill  a basic practice all too often not done by the IT department. Tucillo recommends CIOs work together with CFOs to examine utility bills in an effort to uncover those areas that could potentially be made more energy efficient. While monthly costs do not always correspond to inefficiencies, they can at least highlight in plain financial terms where opportunities for improvement may exist.

3. Adjust for Virtualization

Once initial assessments are done, CIOs can then examine where to trim electricity usage. While specific strategies will vary, server virtualization is a common strategy and one that can reduce energy consumption and costs significantly by replacing many under-utilized physical servers with a single box. Yet to realize maximum savings from virtualization, or any tactic aimed at efficiency, youve got to consider the ripple effect on the overall data center operations.

"If you have taken your average server and storage device from under 20 percent utilized to somewhere around 70 to 80%, you also should ensure that you've matched your power requirements to that utilization," Tucillo explains. When deploying virtualization, the workload density of certain servers increases, so power and cooling need to be adjusted accordingly for the racks housing those servers as well as for the racks from which servers may have been removed.

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