Server Farming

Oct 28 2008   3:56PM GMT

Data Center efficiency tips and tricks from Data Center Decisions

Bridget Botelho Profile: Bridget Botelho

The overarching theme of the Data Center Decisions conference in Chicago last week was energy; how much data centers use, how much they pay for it, and how much they could be saving. 

The keynote addresses on both days of the conference, October 24 & 24, covered data center efficiency at length, with plenty of tips and resources to help data centers cut back on power consumption, though it appears that not many people are taking the necessary measures to reduce consumption. Because of this, government plans to step in and mandate power saving measures to prevent future climate change.

As awful as this sounds, government intervention is a necessary measure at this point, because facility spending has increased tremendously over the past two years with no end in sight, and with all of this additional compute capacity, the outlook for the environment is grim.

The energy required to power and cool a single server emits four tons of greenhouse gases, so by 2012, data centers worldwide will exceed greenhouse gas emissions of the airline industry, according to Ken Brill, President and Executive Director for the Uptime Institute, who gave a keynote address called “Revolutionizing Data Center Efficiency” on October 24 based on the McKinsey / Uptime Institute report.

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So, why has data center power consumption spun out of control? In addition to the increasing demands from Web 2.0, 80% of today’s compute demand is performed on distributed systems with only 5% to 20% utilization rates, whereas before 1980, mainframes were used, and at much higher utilization rates, Brill said.

The way to reverse the trend sounds easy enough; use virtualization to consolidate systems and increase server utilization rates, and also kill comatose servers.

Simple as these steps sound, it can be difficult to do when you don’t keep track of servers to know their utilization rates, Brill said. In this case, implementing a formal de-commissioning program using ITIL to document, bill back and audit the systems is a first step.  [kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

“If we want to become energy efficient we have to become better engineers,” Brill said.

Other measures that can make a major impact are correctly setting the cooling unit set point, shutting off humidification and de-humidification functions, implementing hot aisle/cold aisle containment, turning off unneeded cooling units, and if possible, increasing eco-friendly water side cooling, Brill said.

Data centers that are adding hardware should make an effort to buy efficient power supplies and hardware, which all the major vendors offer, and rightsize memory to avoid using excess power, Brill said

If your asking yourself who in IT has enough extra time to do all of these things, Brill had a suggestion for that, too; appoint an “Energy Czar” – someone who cares about the environment and wasting power – to make sure the data center facilities and operations are as efficient as possible.

Of course, the Energy Czar could also get a bonus here and there for lowering the company power bills, which most certainly will happen when even some of the above measures are implemented.

Companies can also use efficiency software tools or hire outside consultants to help increase energy efficiency, and there are plenty of choices today.



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