Designs on efficiency

Barry Mansfield finds that new power and cooling solutions and multi-core processing technology along with game-changing datacentre design is driving enterprise interest in energy efficiency.

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By  Barry Mansfield Published  February 18, 2008

Barry Mansfield finds that new power and cooling solutions and multi-core processing technology along with game-changing datacentre design is driving enterprise interest in energy efficiency.

Datacentre operators will go to extremes to address the problem of an overheated server after the fact. A good case in point is the financial institution in the City of London that experienced a power shortage during an unusually hot day one recent summer, and found its ability to cool its servers and storage seriously debilitated.

They finally resorted to calling the fire department and having them hose down the outside of the building to cool it down," says IBM's Rich Lechner, the public face of a datacentre efficiency project called Big Green.

Miniaturisation, of which the BlackBox is one example, refers to a range of tools that are a product of science and R&D.

It was certainly an unorthodox approach, and probably not one to be recommended, but datacentre managers throughout the world are missing opportunities to use less power, Lechner and other speakers claimed in a recent panel discussion on datacentre cooling hosted by the Mass Technology Leadership Council (MTLC).

Datacentre energy consumption as a percentage of total US electricity use doubled between 2000 and 2007, with datacentres and servers likely to double their energy consumption again to 100 billion kilowatt-hours by 2012, at an annual cost of at least US$7.4 billion, according to Environmental Protection Agency statistics cited by MTLC.

The state of the Middle East

The trend is not limited to North America or Europe. With environmental damage an increasing concern worldwide - in the Middle East, leading politicians have become much more focused on green energy and efficiency - organisations feel motivated to reduce energy usage by commitments to social responsibility.

On a purely economic level, there are also the sky-high electricity bills to take into consideration. "Electricity is a huge expense," says Rasheed Al Omari, infrastructure consultant at HP Middle East. "It's not unusual for organisations in some parts of the world to pay more for electricity than they do for rent. In most geographies, businesses are really feeling the pressure to reduce their electric bill every month.

Whether the primary motivation is to save cash, protect valuable assets from damage or help save the planet, any organisation that sets out to build a power-efficient information technology infrastructure is likely to start by focusing on the datacentre.

Although it's not always the greatest source of IT power-inefficiency - sprawling estates of under-utilised PCs and departmental servers can be just as wasteful - the datacentre is the location where power-shortage issues are most likely to be concentrated and also, in many cases, where the most immediate potential exists for energy efficiency improvements.

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