Reducing Data Center Energy Consumption - InformationWeek

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Software // Information Management
Commentary
8/8/2008
06:53 PM
Roger Smith
Roger Smith
Commentary
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Reducing Data Center Energy Consumption

For many years, energy efficiency has had a low priority in many IT shops, Jack Pouchet, director of energy initiatives at Emerson Network Power, told a crowded LinuxWorld Expo session titled "A Road Map for Reducing Energy Consumption in the Data Center." The top priority in most IT shops is delivering on service-level agreements, following by issues like performance (providing adequate compute capacity), reliability (redundancy at all steps), and security.

For many years, energy efficiency has had a low priority in many IT shops, Jack Pouchet, director of energy initiatives at Emerson Network Power, told a crowded LinuxWorld Expo session titled "A Road Map for Reducing Energy Consumption in the Data Center." The top priority in most IT shops is delivering on service-level agreements, following by issues like performance (providing adequate compute capacity), reliability (redundancy at all steps), and security.IT cares about energy efficiency, Pouchet said, but not if it affects performance and reliability. "Many IT shops are all for freeing up power and cooling capacity, as long as it does not impact performance and reliability."

In the absence of a universal metric for data center output (like MPG for fuel efficiency), Pouchet said that discussing data center efficiency isn't meaningful. "We can only talk about reducing data center energy consumption."

The company Pouchet works for, Emerson Network Power, modeled energy consumption for a typical 5,000-square-foot data center and analyzed how energy is used within the facility. Energy use was categorized as either "demand side" or "supply side." Demand-side systems are the servers, storage, communications, and other IT systems that support the business. Supply-side systems exist to support the demand side. In his analysis, demand-side systems -- which include processors, server power supplies, other server components, storage, and communication equipment -- account for 52% of total consumption. Supply-side systems include the UPS, power distribution, cooling, lighting, and building switchgear, and account for 48% of consumption.

The distinction between demand and supply power consumption is useful because reductions in demand-side energy use cascade through the supply side. In Pouchet's 5,000-square-foot data center example, a 1-watt reduction at the server-component level (processor, memory, hard disk, etc.) results in an additional 1.84-watt savings in the power supply, power distribution system, UPS system, cooling system, etc. Consequently, every watt of savings that can be achieved on the processor level creates approximately 2.84 watts of savings for the overall facility.

Using the model of a 5,000-square-foot data center that consumes 1,127 kW of power, Pouchet then walked through an approach that would combine to produce a 585-kW reduction in energy use. Pouchet also showed the payback period of various energy-saving strategies:

1. Lower power processors: 12 to 18 months 2. High-efficiency power supplies: five to seven months. 3. Power management features: Immediate 4. Blade servers: TCO reduced 38% 5. Server virtualization: TCO reduced 63% 6. 415V AC power distribution: two to three months 7. Cooling best practices: four to six months 8. Variable capacity cooling (variable-speed fan drives): four to 10 months 9. Supplemental cooling: 10 to 12 months 10. Monitoring and optimization (cooling units work as a team): three to six months

Pouchet closed his talk by repeating his four key messages: 1. The most effective strategy to save energy is to start with reducing losses/consumption at the IT equipment level and work your way back through the supporting equipment, since every watt saved at the equipment level has a cascading effect upstream.

2. As you reduce energy consumption, make sure you do not compromise on availability and flexibility.

3. High-density architecture helps reduce energy consumption.

4. Even if efficiency isn't your key concern, implementing these strategies will free up power, cooling, and space capacity in your data center.

For more information:

Increasing requirements for processor cycles, memory, and storage as well as higher electricity demands mean your data center is consuming more power -- which means you're spending more -- every day. InformationWeek Analytics investigates and explains how to design a modular data center that will future-proof your investment. The report can be downloaded here.

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