Businesses can save costs, improve systems’ performance and achieve environmental efficiency by taking simple measures such as using cloud computing, virtualisation and novel cooling techniques and also by running data centres at slightly higher temperatures.
Amid tightening budgets, rise in energy prices and stricter carbon emissions regulation in the EU, IT pros want to improve data centre energy strategies.
Gartner analysts have predicted that hardware spending on data centres will increase to $106bn (£66bn) this year, rising beyond $126bn (£78.6bn) by 2015. Experts also predicted that eventually the majority of small and medium-size data centres will be consolidated into these large or very large (mega) data centres.
These consolidated facilities can cover 100,000s of square feet of floor space and can significantly increase power and cooling requirements.
IT pros can use virtualisation as an option for data centre optimisation. Virtualisation, although initially reduces demand for power and cooling, will ultimately put an extra burden on data centres as server hardware becomes more powerful and more densely packed within the confines of the building.
Power and cooling requirements for a fully loaded, but virtualised, data centre will be higher than for lower density environments. This is because more powerful equipment is packed in.
Densely packed physical servers that host many virtual servers tend to be stored in ways that can create localised ‘hot spots’ due to a lack of airflow causing systems to overheat.
So what can IT pros, looking to optimise data centre power consumption, do? One simple solution is that they can migrate to a cloud-based hosting provider.
Another solution is allowing IT equipment to run at higher temperatures. Computer systems can be run in a stable configuration at considerably higher temperatures, reducing the need to maintain temperatures lower than 20 degrees Celsius.
One such example is eBay and its Phoenix (Arizona) data centre. The facility runs servers at up to 48 degrees Celsius at full load and uses a hot water cooling system which delivers much greater cooling efficiencies than standard air conditioning units.
The key thing here, for data centre managers, is to strategically and specifically select server hardware which they know can tolerate higher temperatures. They must also remember that this may not be suitable for co-located environments with many different hardware vendors.
Remembering the following simple steps will help IT pros reduce data centre power and cooling costs:
1. Migrating to a cloud-based infrastructure - let someone else take the strain;
2. Allowing IT equipment to run at higher temperatures where possible;
3. Using novel cooling means such as hot water systems, rather than traditional air conditioning;
4. Making more efficient use of rack space to ensure adequate airflow including hot and cold aisles;
5. Virtualising servers where possible to reduce the number of physical servers in the data centre.
- By Steven Turner
Turner is vice president of IT optimisation at Intergence and a contributor to SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.UK. He specialises in network optimisation and has helped private and public sector companies in their optimisation projects. Turner is Cisco CCNA and CCNA security certified. Steve has gained a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science from the University of Warwick, and an MSc in Network Systems from the University of Sunderland. He has also completed a PhD using genetic algorithms in conjunction with parallel processing to produce a multi-utility network optimisation tool.
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