Cull your data centre’s carbon footprint

The data centre has become a prime example of the need for greater efficiency

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Cull your data centre’s carbon footprint
By  Tom Paye Published  August 18, 2014

There is no doubting that, despite the industry’s best efforts, data centre power requirements are on the up, meaning that the collective carbon footprint of these facilities is getting larger by the year. And this is especially true in the Middle East, which has continued to show strong economic growth despite the global downturn.

Figures from DCD Intelligence say that, from 2011 to 2012, data centre power requirements grew by 19% in the Gulf region, markedly higher than the global average of 13.6%. That number came down in 2013, with growth hovering around the 11% mark, but it was still higher than the global average of 9.6%. Data centres, it seems, are becoming more power hungry. And what’s more, more are always being built.

But this hasn’t stopped enterprises from looking at how to reduce the power needs of the data centre – not least because, despite subsidised energy prices in this region, power costs are on the up. Add to this that more enterprises are in growth mode, and it becomes patently obvious that reducing a data centre’s carbon footprint will also reduce the costs associated with running the data centre.

“The question for most CIOs and enterprises in this region is not whether energy prices allow organisations to be fudging when it comes to creating data centre efficiency and limiting power draw. Instead, most businesses doing their due diligence are loathe to spend money they don’t need to - regardless of the cost of energy. Data centre costs are dropping, and the yield being provided for those reduced costs are increasing, and I think all organisations will want to save money in this area when they can,” says Bob Plumridge, CTO at Hitachi Data Systems EMEA.

The sentiment is echoed by Sudheer Subramanian, IT solutions director at Huawei Enterprise Middle East, who says that energy consumption costs are one of the most prominent overheads for a company running its own data centres. He claims that around 80% of operational expenditures comes from electricity usage, and because of this, enterprises are looking to bring that spend down, regardless of the positive impact it will have on the environment.

How to reduce
One of the first areas that can be addressed in reducing data centre power consumption is cooling. According to Subramanian, cooling is one of the biggest headaches caused by data centres in the Middle East. Due to the high temperatures in this region, enterprises need to waste much electricity simply on air-conditioning their facilities so that the kit operates at a safe temperature. This, he says, results in data centres in this region performing poorly in terms of power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratings, which measure how effective systems are against the power they consume.

“Certainly due to the ambient temperatures in the Middle East cooling is the main reason for higher electricity usage in data centres. As a result of higher cooling needs, most data centers in the region will generate a PUE rate of between 2.5 and 3.0, which is incredibly high by global industry standards and potentially harmful to the environment,” he says.

“This indicator measures how effective systems and hardware is performing weighted against power usage. By implementing greener and more environmentally friendly systems and processes, companies will reduce operational costs but also importantly make their ICT systems more efficient at the same time.”

Happily, there are a number of technologies that enterprises can make use of to reduce on their cooling costs, Subramanian says, particularly when designing and building a new data centre from scratch. He says that, if designed right, a green data centre can maximise the use of renewable energy without seriously impacting the ROI of the data centre — an important thing in an era when going green is ultimately regarded as too expensive.

Firstly, he suggests adopting in-row cooling mechanisms, which he says can enable cool air to flow between the data centre aisles, ensuring that the hot air coming from the stacks leaves the facility through separate ventilation. He says it also eliminates the need for raised floor models. Subramanian also advises using hot and cold aisle containment technology, which he says helps to separate cold from hot air, rather than rotating a mixture of the two in the data centre, providing better cooling efficiency.

But reducing a data centre’s power consumption needn’t end with fixing cooling issues. Subramanian also advises looking at devices that support hibernation modes, as well as adopting virtualisation wherever possible. Naturally, the more an infrastructure is virtualised, the less hardware is required to run it. Subramanian says that virtual servers increase the utilisation of computing resources by more than double compared to a traditional server farm.

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