Businesses Find New Ways to Save Energy, Cost in Data Centers

by | Sep 24, 2009

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datacenterenergyuseWhether it’s a novel technique to cool data centers like the one tested by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, installation of new hardware chosen by Skyservice Airlines, or leveraging rebates through utilities like PG&E, businesses are looking at a variety of ways to reduce the cost of cooling their data centers as well as saving energy.

The reason is because cooling equipment accounts for almost half the energy used in a typical data center. Data center energy consumption doubled from 2000 to 2006, reaching more than 60 billion kilowatt hours per year, and that number could double again by 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

A team of engineers led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, working with Intel, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Emerson Network Power, have successfully tested a novel system that could improve the efficiency of data center cooling, reports PC World.

PC World said the experiment entailed feeding temperature readings from sensors that are built into most modern servers directly into the data-center building controls, which allow the air conditioning system to keep the facility at the right temperature to cool the servers.

In addition, the up-front costs for the new technique are relatively low and use industry-standard technologies, reports PC World.

Bill Tschudi, a program manager at Lawrence Berkeley, told PC World the amount of energy saved will vary depending on how efficient a data center is to begin with. He expects most data centers to see a return on their investment within a year.

IT and facilities management systems have historically been managed separately, with computer room air handlers, or CRAH units, most often controlled using temperature sensors located on or near the CRAH air inlets, reports PC World.

About 76 percent of data centers do it this way, and eleven percent of data centers place the sensors in the cold aisles between the server racks, which is better but still not ideal, according to a study cited in a white paper about the experiment, reports PC World.

Engineers will report their findings in a session at the Intel Developer Forum this month, and at the Data Center Energy Efficiency Summit in October.

Some businesses like Skyservice Airlines, a charter airline service in Canada, simply outgrow their data centers, and look for more efficient systems.

After starting a VMware implementation, Skyservice identified several issues with their system including storage that was inefficient to cool and required a substantial amount of power, reports ITWorld.

As a result, the company chose the Pillar Axiom 600 storage product for its modular design as well as its cost of performance and power, making it the “best environmental alternative,” according to Hilton Reading, Skyservice’s vice president of IT and CIO, reports the publication.

In addition to the system’s ease of use which took the IT staff much less time to manage than the previous system, it also reduced cooling and overall power costs in a smaller footprint, which translated into additional savings, reports ITWorld.

California companies looking to save money on storage in their data centers in California may want to look at again at Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s (PG&E) rebate program. The utility has added energy-efficient storage to the host of technologies that can earn data centers some big rebates, reports Datacenter Journal.

PG&E also is looking at other rebate opportunities such as thermal energy storage, which uses power during the evening or off peak hours to cool water that will then be used during the day for the data center, reports the journal.

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