Save energy and costs in the data centre

By Christian Bertolini
Tuesday, 08 June, 2010


In the last few years, the data centre industry has been under increasing financial pressure driven by new IT technologies and rising energy costs. Christian Bertolini*, APC by Schneider Electric, Chief Technology Officer, Pacific, sets out ways to alleviate these pressures and costs.

The data centre has been traditionally considered as an overhead, as a cost that organisations need to carry to have their IT services available. It is now becoming the centre of attention for large and small companies that are looking at energy efficiency as a necessary step towards a new management style.

Local and international governments are working on new energy regulations and carbon emissions reduction schemes, and data centre operators can now rely on global industry standards and energy-efficiency metrics, such as the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE). Soon the Australian government in conjunction with NABERS (www.nabers.com.au) will release an energy star rating tool for Australian data centres.

The pressure on IT managers is also coming from new and compelling IT technologies and computing styles (ie, cloud computing, high-density computing) which are dramatically changing the environmental conditions of computer rooms and data halls.

IT and software vendors are creating new ways of managing information and data interaction between users and machines. These new technologies are making the IT environment unpredictable.

Given this steep evolution trend, IT strategies cannot be extended beyond five years and future proofing the data centre is one of the most urgent topics amongst data centre operators.

Although issues like high density, hot spots and lack of cooling have made the design of new data centres more challenging than ever, energy costs are going to be the big tipping point.

The Business Council of Australia is predicting that end-user electricity charges may double by 2015 as a result of carbon charges, sharp rises in regulated network charges and the impact of the much-enlarged renewable energy target.

In this scenario, energy monitoring and energy management options are an absolute must. More than five million smart meters are planned to be rolled out in residential dwellings in Victoria and New South Wales by 2017.

All these signs are confirming the inevitable: we are approaching a new era for the data centre. If we were software people we could call it Data Centre 2.0, but this new approach is the only option to make future data centre solutions sustainable from a business, technical and environmental perspective.

The future data centre will be based on isolated IT PODs, cooled by high-precision cooling systems that can remove the servers’ generated heat directly at the source. This approach creates data centre PODs, or elements, which are room neutral and do not suffer from the poor conditions of the room, and do not require an over-cooled environment to achieve the required temperature threshold.

It’s in this environment that considerable energy and financial savings can be easily made. With the management of the cold air in the data centre - more precisely in the capturing of the hot air directly at the source - is the most efficient system available to date: the hot aisle containment system.

In a recent study, a large co-location facility has estimated a total savings of $3 million per year, for a specific customer, just by switching from a traditional approach to a POD approach with in row cooling units and a hot aisle containment system. This has given their customer a total saving of $15 million over the 5-year term of the contract (http://newsletter.itnews.com.au/cgi-bin16/DM/y/eB4BN0dmiAD0PTM0SWpW0EU).

The key to taking advantage of these new data centre designs is to challenge the very slow-moving, technical ‘collective conscience’ that is keeping many organisations from achieving the objectives they wish for, or that the government will be mandating for.

* Christian Bertolini is the Chief Technology Officer, Pacific for APC by Schneider Electric. Bertolini is responsible for communicating APC’s energy-efficiency offering to partners and customers, as well as helping to develop leading data centre design strategies that deliver innovation and energy savings to APC’s customers. Bertolini has been with APC since 2002 and originally worked as part of the APC team in Italy.

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