Data center energy efficiency at a crossroads


Five years ago the data center industry faced a crisis: Data centers were running out of capacity, the mechanical infrastructure couldn’t handle the widespread and rapid shift to high-density hardware, and minimally utilized servers sprawled out of control.

And bigger challenges loomed on the horizon: Scarcity of cheap power, pending regulation, and increased public scrutiny of data center energy use.

The first respondents to this crisis demonstrated that data center design and operations could evolve significantly to meet those challenges.

The first respondents also developed best practices and metrics for measuring energy efficiency. Server virtualization has been widely implemented, improving IT utilization. Forward-thinking data center managers have become better stewards of their companies’ resources, and the planet’s.

Today, Facebook has 100,000 users demanding its data centers unfriend coal after news broke that the social media giant had chosen a utility provider with primarily coal-based power generation. Our discussions with one of the world’s top banks reveals heightened sensitivity in that industry to the public relations impacts, and business consequences, of energy use in the data centers.

For many companies, green is a competitive differentiator driving data center consolidation efforts, closer scrutiny of IT capacity management, and efficiency-minded engineering solutions. Other companies are running out of data center space while they’re still dragging themselves out of the economic crisis.

Ignoring data center efficiency is no longer an option.

The tools and best practices are available for data center owners and operators to wring every drop out of existing data center assets, and to design new data centers in the most cost- and energy-efficient manner possible.

Actionable advice, low-cost improvements, self-funding projects

For the past several years, Uptime Institute has developed a body of knowledge for data center owners and operators to improve data center efficiency. Many of these time honored best practices haven’t changed, nor require significant investment.

Uptime Institute recommends all data center owners and operators take a staged approach to energy efficiency. Starting with low-cost, low-risk efficiency improvements—data center managers can reap huge savings from existing facilities without any new or expensive techno-fixes.

The following documents provide actionable advice for data center managers to get started:

-IT and Facilities Initiatives for Improved Data Center Efficiency: Ten initiatives for data center operators to reduce energy-related capital expenses across facility and IT systems.

-How to Meet “24 by Forever” Cooling Demands of Your Data Center: 27 data center cooling best practices to improve reliability and efficiency.

-The Invisible Crisis in the Data Center — The Economic Meltdown of Moore’s Law: Provides economic argument for improving data center efficiency, and recommendations for achieving those goals.

The next step: Integrating IT and data center operations

Data center facilities managers and executives have led the first charge to improve data center energy efficiency. Future improvements in data center efficiency will depend on incentivizing IT practitioners to take the next steps.

IT operations staff can drive exponential improvements in data center efficiency and effectiveness. IT organizations that are willing to take a systematic approach, starting at the application and data layers – consolidating applications and servers, de-duplicating data, removing comatose but power-draining servers, building redundancy into the applications and IT architecture rather than physical systems — will drive the next wave of efficiency gains.

The following documents provide advice for integrating data center facilities and IT operations teams:

Data Center Energy Efficiency and Productivity: An introduction of the concept of the Integrated Critical Environments Team, plus five self-funding short-term initiatives to improve data center efficiency.

-ITIL — How to Manage the Coming Convergence of IT and Facilities: Using the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework to create an integrated IT and Facilities team.

Uptime Institute’s role and publication plan going forward

Over the past five years, the data center industry has coalesced around new standards, best practices, metrics and recognition programs. Uptime Institute has partnered with industry standards bodies, and will provide technical advice, an industry test bed and global perspective on these standards, best practices and metrics.

Drawing on the expertise of its Network, staff of distinguished engineers, body of intellectual property and the hundreds of Uptime Institute Accredited Tier Specialists and Accredited Tier Designers around the globe, Uptime will deliver publications to help data center owners and operators evaluate and implement data center efficiency metrics, best practices and recognition programs.

Look for new step-by-step data center efficiency guidance in the coming months for Uptime Institute Members. Also, the Uptime Institute will be serving as a test-bed for industry standards in development. This will work to ensure that the owner’s perspective is incorporated into the development process and that the methodologies are proved in real-life, real-world operational data centers.

Posted by mstansberry on 31-03-2011
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