Data Center Energy Best Practices Part II: 6 Steps to Maximize Efficiency, Increase Savings

by | Jan 22, 2013

In this second installment of Data Center Energy Best Practices: Maximize Efficiency, Increase Savings (read the first installment here) we’ll look at “right-sizing” equipment to leverage modularity and scalable infrastructure to fit the exact needs of a given data center or mission critical space; Demand Response as an efficiency technique; and several other steps to start increasing efficiency and eliminating wasted energy and costs today.

  • “Right-Size” Power Distribution

Incorrect sizing and under-loading are some of the main contributors to inefficiency in data center and mission critical facilities, especially seeing as traditional facilities devote over half of their infrastructure power to fixed energy supplies that do not vary. As IT load declines, efficiency also takes a nosedive.

Modular and scalable power and cooling architecture, such as scalable UPS systems, help to right-size power distribution by allowing data centers to scale up and down as demand cycles change. This “right-sizing” design can achieve energy savings of 10 to 30 percent, with increased savings when used for redundant systems.

  • Economization

Many air conditioners offer “economizer mode” options, an energy efficient feature that uses less power. Depending on the climate and specific environment/geographic location of the facility, filtered outside air can be used to further lower energy expenditure and costs, often referred to as free air cooling. Mechanical cooling systems consume a great deal of energy when running, so it only makes sense to turn them off whenever possible and instead, run economizer mode as the primary mode of operation for a data center. By implementing economization, data centers can realize improvements in PUE, up to 50 percent, and potential energy savings of 4 to 25 percent.

  • Converting to More Efficient Power Equipment

Heat generated by critical devices such as UPS, transformers and wiring must be cooled to maintain optimal operational conditions, taking a toll on energy efficiency.

Converting to more energy efficient UPS, transformer, switch, and wiring equipment can be done in phases, allowing managers to reap significant financial returns on energy bills. High-efficiency UPS (which have 70 percent less losses than legacy UPS at typical loads); servers; and CRAC/CRAH units (which can be coordinated to stop demand fighting) can all contribute to reduced consumption.

  • Power Factor Correction

Installation of Power Factor Correction (PFC) banks, or capacitor banks, close to the load optimizes the power factor at the associated network point along with the flow of reactive power. This results in reduced losses in the data center facility, improving energy savings. Executing PFC banks can bring a data center’s power factor closer to 1, limiting the quantity of waste and associated penalties, evident on the electric bill.

  • Demand Response

Demand Response (DR) is an incredibly valuable generation measure that is enabled by energy efficient practices. Often called the “killer app” of the smart grid, it helps facility managers make the most of their utility budget.

DR is a smart grid strategy that uses localized actions, such as load shedding (i.e. turning applications off when they’re not needed and/or during peak times) and back up generation to reduce demand on the grid. As most data centers have back-up generation, DR should be considered, especially with the knowledge that utilities will pay companies for limiting their demand.

  • Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM)

Implementing DCIM, a centralized management system, allows facility managers to monitor all equipment and software from rack inlet temperature and humidity, to UPS and PDU operation, to strictly monitoring room security and access. Additionally, thanks to this continuous monitoring, facility managers will be alerted in real-time should any discrepancies occur and will be able to control operation and performance by making adjustments as needed.

Thanks to DCIM, managers can even identify and eliminate under-utilized servers, commonly called “zombie” servers that siphon energy without benefiting operations processes.

Energy Efficiency in the Real World

One of the world’s leading telecommunications companies set a company goal to improve its carbon efficiency by 15 percent during 2011 and implemented DCIM as a key part of its strategy to increase energy efficiency. The new systems included wireless temperature sensors at each data center which connected through an intelligent mesh network to on-site servers using the energy management software. The systems were able to deliver real-time data about the environmental conditions throughout each data center facility and provided analysis as well as recommendations on the optimal configurations and performance so adjustments could be easily made.

As a result of DCIM monitoring, the company was able to turn off approximately 40 percent of the computer room air conditioners in their data centers within just two days of implementing the energy management systems, providing an instant reduction in energy consumption and an anticipated savings of more than 55 million kilowatts annually. Other benefits realized include the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by more than 66 million pounds of CO2 on an annualized basis and an average temperature decrease of two degrees Fahrenheit throughout their data centers, with significantly reduced temperature fluctuations and extremes. All of this amounts to a significant reduction in energy consumption, and an important step for future cost savings.

Taking the First Step

These often overlooked, yet straightforward steps to improving energy efficiency can account for huge data center energy savings, which means lower costs. To provide just one watt of IT utilization requires approximately 3 generated watts of electricity. By deploying some or all of the above energy efficiency steps, major strides can be made in eliminating all of the losses data centers experience in production, distribution and use. When necessary generation is reduced, so are a facility’s energy bills, carbon footprint, and overall waste. That’s something to take to the bank.

Lance Bishop is director of energy management services for Schneider Electric.

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