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Six simple yet effective ways to optimise data centre energy efficiency

Six simple yet effective ways to optimise data centre energy efficiency

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Operating sustainably is at the top of the agenda for data centre leaders as they aim to become climate-neutral by 2030. James Giblette, Director of Digital Infrastructure – UK & Ireland at Legrand Data Center Solutions, discusses the ways organisations can reduce energy wastage in the data centre and meet sustainability initiatives.

In the current digital age, it is expected that data centres will continue to rise in both power consumption and complexity. In fact, it is predicted by IDC that the global datasphere will have expanded to 175 zettabytes by 2025. As the age of Big Data continues to grow, the challenge for data centre operators will be to discover how they support additional data while also meeting targets like those set out in the European Green Deal – an initiative to achieve climate-neutral, high-energy efficient and sustainable data centres by 2030.

So, what can organisations do to reduce energy wastage in the data centre and meet sustainability initiatives? Here we review six core areas for consideration.

1. Power monitoring and measurement

It’s so cliché, yet so true: you can’t manage what you don’t measure. The growth in data has resulted in an increased challenge for many in how to manage data centre power usage. Intelligent rack power distribution units (PDUs) can help address these challenges by allowing you to identify rack power consumption at the inlet, outlet and circuit breaker level. Inlet metering is crucial for determining overall server power usage and availability at the rack. Metering at the outlet can help you understand the power consumption of a specific device or server, and metering at the circuit breaker provides early warnings if a circuit becomes heavily loaded and runs the risk of tripping.

Intelligent PDUs offer granular remote power monitoring of current (amps), voltage, power (kVA, kW), power factor, and energy consumption (kWh) to +/– 1% accuracy, providing you with the most critical information to help your data centre remain stable and efficient.

2.  Identifying underutilised or idle servers

According to a recent survey by the Uptime Institute, approximately 30% of global data centre servers are either underutilised or completely idle. Idle servers are troublesome for the simple fact that they are inefficient and in large numbers can be highly expensive. Fortunately, intelligent PDUs with outlet level metering can help you to determine which servers are currently underutilised or inefficient and better understand how a specific server (or device) is consuming power. Through detailed power consumption metering, you can not only effectively monitor usage, but you can ultimately reduce your costs throughout the entire year.

Locating and correcting an idle server is made easier when you combine a DCIM solution with your intelligent rack PDUs, which will give you real-time insights into your data centre’s assets. From owners to location, application information to power utilisation trends, the DCIM software allows you to analyse all of your intelligent PDU data through a single pane of glass. By using the DCIM, you can easily identify where you have an idle server.

3. Deploy environmental sensors to your racks


With the IT industry’s increased focus on remote operations, more rack PDU manufacturers have begun offering environmental sensors. These include sensors to measure rack air temperature at the server inlets, as well as the humidity, airflow, vibration, smoke, water and air pressure. Some PDUs may have pre-installed sensors; while others provide for optional, plug-in external sensors. Another approach is to deploy a completely independent intelligent sensor management solution, which provides an all-in-one intelligent device, with the minimum change required to the configuration of existing power distribution or IT infrastructure.

Coupling environmental sensors with intelligent PDUs answers the call for efficiency. Here’s why:

  • Ensure uptime by monitoring racks for potential hot spots
  • Save on cooling by confidently raising data centre temperatures
  • Maintain cabinet security with contact closure sensors
  • Improve data centre availability by receiving environment alerts
  • Make strategic decisions on cooling design and containment
  • Set thresholds and alerts to monitor onsite or remote facilities

Sensors are an easy-to-install, cost-effective way to reduce energy costs, improve reliability and increase capacity for future data centre growth. By using environmental sensors, you can optimise your data centre ecosystem to ensure that you are meeting equipment guidelines, reducing operational costs, deferring capital investments and improving your power usage effectiveness (PUE). 

Additionally, Asset Management Tags (AMTs) and Asset Management Sensors (AMSs) provide data centre operators an accurate, automated, real-time inventory of all IT assets and their locations, down to the 1U level. Integrated with DCIM software, you can easily track assets, determine capacity in several areas and manage adds, moves, or changes.

4. Implement remote power control

You wouldn’t leave the lights on at home all day while you went to work, so why leave IT equipment on during nights and weekends that isn’t mission critical and won’t be used? Test and other non-production servers can often be powered off to conserve power during non-peak hours. To begin a remote power cycling programme within your organisation, start by metering your current servers to determine the most common times during which they are not in use. 

An intelligent PDU with the right capabilities will: A) only perform a graceful shutdown of equipment to eliminate the risk of data loss or corruption, and B) allow you to power cycle equipment with one or more power feeds on or off in a set order to minimise the risk of setting off a breaker due to an excessive inrush current. 

5. Optimise airflow management in server cabinets

The cooling setup in a server cabinet has a big influence on the PUE: a lower PUE results in lower total energy consumption of the data centre. It is therefore extremely important that air leakage and recirculation is minimised so that the cool air is guided exclusively through the IT equipment. To do this, the space between the frame of the cabinet and the steel profiles must be perfectly sealed.

Airflow management packages can be used that consist of a bottom, top, left and right plate. These plates connect the cabinet with the profiles in which the IT equipment is installed. Special accessories have also been developed by leading cabinet manufacturers to perfectly seal the spaces between the cabinets. Properly applied airflow management will bring forth higher efficiency and will lengthen the life span of your servers.

6. Remote working and the shift to the cloud

According to a recent Gartner report, by the end of 2023, more than 90% of infrastructure and operations (I&O) organisations will have the majority of their staff working remotely. This shift towards ‘anywhere operations’ challenges the traditional thinking of providing infrastructure and supporting operations from one central location. Enterprises now require remote power management solutions that enable staff to control data centre IT devices from multiple remote locations.

A further Gartner report, states that by 2024, more than 45% of IT spending on system infrastructure, infrastructure software, application software and business process outsourcing will shift from traditional solutions to the cloud. The result is what Gartner calls ‘cloud shift’.

Organisations can often benefit from the cloud provider’s more energy-efficient infrastructure and presumably more optimised environment, but many also fear the loss of access to their systems. The reality is, however, that a growing number of colocation providers can provide access to data centre power monitoring software so that clients can be sure they’re being billed for actual power usage. Working with a colocation provider that allows clients to build out their racks and include KVM-over-IP switch access for remote administration will give organisations peace of mind that they still have access that’s just like being at the rack. 

Conclusion

Reducing carbon costs and energy consumption within the data centre is at the top of many organisations’ sustainability, CSR, and efficiency agendas, in order to achieve the European Green Deal’s goal of making data centres climate-neutral by 2030. Adopting one or more of these simple energy-saving initiatives in your data centre can be made quickly and economically and could see your IT energy wastage drastically improve.

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