Data center management more than cooling

Keeping your data center from overheating is important, but it's not the only element for proper maintenance.

11/29/2012


Myth: Building my own data center is expensive, inefficient, and time-consuming—but worth it to meet my specific IT needs.

Due to advances in data center technology, modular and containerized data centers are now often a better alternative to customized data centers. For data center managers looking to increase their ROI, modular or containerized data centers are not only faster to deploy, but they’re also significantly more affordable and can offer better operational, efficiency, and processing benefits.

The most obvious benefit to modular data centers is a drastic reduction in installation time. Traditional data centers take months or even years for construction, compared to just 10 to 16 weeks for a modular data center. This is in part because they’re already verified for compliance in safety, energy efficiency, compatibility, and security.

Cost savings is another major benefit. Not only will the upfront cost of installation be drastically lower than that for a traditional data center, but maintenance and operating expenses are also reduced over time. A modular approach can deliver capital expenditure cost savings anywhere from 10% to 20%, and operating expenditure cost savings from 20% to 35%.

Because of their manufacturing process and predictability, modular facilities also have a lower risk of operational human error. Systems have factory-verified operation and are tuned for maximum energy efficiency. Product defects are limited and software is preprogrammed, allowing technicians to spend less time troubleshooting and more time devoted to other critical IT issues.   

Modular data centers are also extremely flexible and can be deployed and scaled as needed to meet changes in an enterprise’s demand. For instance, they can be installed using existing space within warehouses or former manufacturing plants, and even appended to existing data centers to provide additional capacity within short time frames.

Myth: Sustainability in my data center is unattainable within my budget constraints.

Sustainability isn’t just for big budgets. Using the right equation of affordable, widely available services and technologies to manage a data center’s energy supply and demand, businesses of all sizes can meet and exceed green and sustainability goals—without breaking the bank. Below are a few examples.

Energy procurement: To ensure the most reliable and affordable clean energy is being sourced, data centers now have the option to work with outside sustainability service providers. These providers can help data centers with the full-time job of energy planning, monitoring, and reporting. These partners can also help reduce complexities involving price volatility, and control costs.

Energy use: Just as we’re reminded to consume energy intelligently in our homes, data centers also need to be mindful of how and when they’re consuming energy. Some methods to reduce energy usage include:

Natural cooling: Instead of an expensive HVAC system, use a free resource to cool your racks: outside air. While this is clearly best for data centers located in colder climates, it’s an ideal way to slash cooling costs and reduce energy use.

Air containment strategies: Data centers routinely mix hot and cold air, limiting how effectively a system operates, as well as its overall capacity. An air containment system can be implemented by placing air tiles in the cold aisle, installing supply vents in the cold aisle and return vents in the hot aisle, and physically dividing the hot and cold aisles with a curtain or hard enclosure. This can return up to 25% in savings.

And as the connecting element in a smart data center equation, demand response helps data centers get the most value out of their utility budget. By taking advantage of their utility’s demand response programs, businesses have the ability to determine when to best consume electricity, in conjunction with low rates. Plus, companies can also sell back unused energy (gleaned from efficiency and smart sourcing) to their utility at peak times, generating entirely new streams of revenue.

Myth: Updating cooling is the only way to lower data center energy costs.

There are many other tactics to be considered for lowering data center energy costs. Though cooling is a tremendous energy consumer, there are equally important areas you should be paying attention to if you want to slash your energy bills as much as possible, including air containment, higher voltage power distribution, more efficient UPS, redundancy requirements, and power architecture. Also consider:

Power equipment efficiency: Data centers often fail to account for the heat produced by critical devices within a data center, such as UPS, transformers, transfer switches, and wiring. By cooling the heat generated by these devices, data centers maintain optimal conditions but also consume far more energy.

Data centers should consider switching to more energy-efficient equipment, such as high-efficiency UPS, which have up to 70% less loss than legacy UPS at typical loads, servers, and CRAC/CRAH units, which can be programmed to reduce or cease demand fighting entirely.

Centralized management system: Advancements in data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software now allow data center managers to easily integrate and prioritize all IT equipment and functions into one application. This centralized point of control allows data center managers to holistically monitor temperatures, operations, security, and power utilization. Data gathered can be used to optimize load, operate cooling systems more efficiently, and manage capacity.

For example, DCIM technologies can help managers identify and eliminate under-utilized “zombie” servers that suck up energy without contributing to operational processes.  

While cooling should not be overlooked, data centers would do well to look at energy usage holistically. By implementing a variety of tactics, data centers can slash energy bills in a way that works best for the organization.

Kevin Brown is Vice President, Data Center Global Solution Offer for Schneider Electric’s IT Business.



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