Data Center Optimization to Improve Energy Efficiency

By: Jacqueline Lee - Leave a comment


In 2008, data center energy usage was doubling every five years, causing big concerns about cost and climate change. Almost a decade later, data center optimization initiatives have slowed overall power consumption. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, data center energy efficiency initiatives have saved 620 billion kilowatt-hours and $60 billion.

Even though energy consumption trends are improving, most businesses can do more to optimize their data centers. These steps will help to improve your bottom line as your data center needs evolve.

Inventory Your Assets

Whether you use data center infrastructure management software or an Excel spreadsheet, make sure you record every item you own in your data center. Tim Kittila, writing for Data Center Knowledge, recommends going beyond make, model and serial number. Note each asset’s room, cabinet or floor location, as well as its generation.

Kittila recommends taking images of the front of each cabinet and storing them within inventory records. This step lets you visualize how crowded or underutilized your cabinets are, which will help if you decide to decommission unused servers and consolidate cabinets. He also suggests including patch panels in your inventory so you know which ports are open or closed. Doing so cuts the lead time between purchasing and installing cabling and panels. It also enables you to add new ports before racking and cabling new equipment.

Consolidate Server Workloads

Virtualization gets more workloads from each server. Virtualizing more workloads and consolidating existing virtual machines may allow you to cut back on active servers. Start by eliminating unnecessary workloads, getting rid of applications that are redundant or obsolete and combining workloads from multiple lightly used machines onto a single server. For instance, you could combine applications from multiple machines onto one machine with a single operating system instance.

Take a look at the number of backup servers you have. If you’re still operating on a 1:1 ratio with one backup server for every working server, you’re using too much space and power. Follow Environmental Protection Agency guidance, which includes clustering servers and implementing N+1 redundancy, where components (N) have at least one independent backup component (+1). You can also use automated clustering software to move application workloads between active servers, both for demand fluctuations and continuity when a server goes down.

Once you determine which servers you want to keep, retire or replace, decommission older machines that are taking up space and consuming too much power. Then, review your inventory, and decide what to upgrade. As you make changes, consolidate your cabinets to help you balance heat loads.

Use Energy Efficiently

Green Grid, in cooperation with IBM and other industry stakeholders, has recommended expanding power usage effectiveness (PUE) with three new performance indicator components. When you input these metrics into modeling software, you can predict how adding new servers or taking away existing equipment will affect your efficiency, cooling and resiliency measurements, Data Center Knowledge explains.

  • Efficiency: PUE can be used to measure the energy efficiency of a data center. A PUE ratio is a helpful tool to determine how far your data center is from your desired target PUE.
  • Cooling: IT thermal conformance shows how much of your IT equipment operates within desired inlet air temperature ranges. Divide the units of equipment within range by total equipment units.
  • Resiliency: IT thermal resilience shows you how well your data center maintains temperature when cooling equipment isn’t functioning. It’s calculated just like IT thermal conformance, only it’s done when cooling units are down for maintenance.

Additional Data Center Optimization Tips

To improve cooling, Gartner recommends using air economizers and isolating equipment that produces the most heat. You can then funnel heat from isolated areas to warm other rooms, and you can relieve air conditioners by supplementing them with outside air.

A data center strategy partner can measure your current efficiency and develop the right optimization strategy. Improving efficiency cuts costs and reduces your carbon footprint. This is a smart way to run a data center.

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About The Author

Jacqueline Lee

Freelance Writer

Jacqueline Lee specializes in business and technology writing, drawing on over 10 years of experience in business, management and entrepreneurship. Currently, she blogs for HireVue and IBM, and her work on behalf of client brands has appeared in Huffington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur and Inc. Magazine. In addition to writing, Jackie works as a social media... Read More