Data Center Efficiency

Global cloud data traffic and mobile data traffic are growing. Cloud traffic is expected to increase from 57 exabytes a month last year to 355 exabytes a month in 2016.1 Global mobile traffic will grow as well, reaching 10 exabytes a month by 2016.2

In 2012, there are more mobile connected devices than people on earth.3 Not to mention, spending on big data, the collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools, is expected to increase to $34 billion in 2013 from $28 billion in 2012, according to Gartner. Add it all up, and the data explosion led by mobile technologies is going to put a strain on existing and developing data centers.

The Cloud, Consolidation & LEED

Many people think this data are just moving into “the cloud,” into nothing physical just the data ether, but data center operators know better. They know the cloud is a physical entity. It’s the more than 3 million data centers worldwide that take up space and require energy and other resources to operate. In 2010, U.S. data centers consumed roughly 76 billion kilowatt-hours or about 2 percent of the total electricity used.

In 2007, a report to Congress detailed data center energy use in the United States, which estimated about 1.5 percent of all electricity in the U.S. went directly into data centers.4 By 2010, data center electricity usage had only grown to 2 percent5 of the power used in the U.S. The minimal increase was attributed to the general economic slowdown and energy-efficiency gains due to more advanced technologies and programs such as ENERGY STAR.

Consolidation of virtual appliances onto a single server is increasing server densities. In a typical, nonvirtualized environment, the power requirements are 1 to 5 kilowatts per cabinet. Virtualization and consolidation can increase consumption to 10, 15 and even 20 kilowatts per cabinet.

To address data center energy efficiency, the U.S. Green Building Council created a LEED specification for data centers. This voluntary, consensus-based, market-driven program provides third-party verification of green buildings, and until recently, data center could only be LEED certified under the general building program.

While LEED address the physical facility, the U.S. government’s ENERGY STAR program is concerned with the operational energy of data centers. ENERGY STAR is a two-sided program that focuses on ENERGY STAR-rated components (e.g., UPSs, servers and monitors) and also on operational metrics. Interestingly though, LEED does recognize the Energy Star program and you can get 20 LEED credit points if you meet the Energy Star program. In the ENERGY STAR program, nothing is submitted to the federal government on the design. After the facility is designed and operated for a year continuously, the government looks at the information, sends a person to the data center, takes measurements and verifies if the data center meets ENERGY STAR requirements.

Standards Bodies and Manufacturers Influence on Efficiency

A standards body that has a strong influence on data center efficiency is ASHRAE or the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers. The ASHRAE Technical Committee 9.9 published a white paper on thermal guidelines for data processing environments, which modified the operating window for temperature and humidity in data centers. Without economizers, free cooling allows operators to increase their data center set points and run them at higher temperatures. Airside economizer bring outside air into the data center, after filtering it of course. Waterside economizers use the outside air to chill the water in a cooling tower without the use of a compressor.

PUE or Power Usage Effectiveness is the baseline ratio for data center efficiency. Power Usage Effectiveness is calculated by looking at the total power going into the data center divided by what is consumed by the IT load. By looking at the output load on a UPS or at the PDU level, an operator can determine how much power is being consumed by the IT load.

There are several efficiency gains to be made in the distribution of power through the data center. The first is to bring higher voltages to the equipment. If voltage is increased to 480 volts from 120 volts and is changed to three phase from single phase, power density can increase, which reduces the amount of power lost and increases efficiency. Delivering higher voltages to the enclosure of a 208/240 three-phase cabinet will increase the operational efficiency of the IT networking gear. This removes power conversions, reduces energy loss, reduces heat created and increased overall data center efficiency.

Busway technology is a green-build trend and increases efficiency depending on the environment. In the last few years, busway has made great inroads into the data center, and it’s a lot simpler way to distribute power overhead. The cost has come down drastically, so it is close in comparison to traditional conduit. Busways allows for different types of electrical service to the cabinets, and it allows for reconfiguration without bringing an electrician into the facility.

Lighting is another consideration when aiming for efficiency. Data center operators may feel that the lighting is a low percentage of overall consumption, whether 1 to 5 percent within the data center, but there are still significant efficiency gains being made within the lighting system. An intelligent lighting system also provides a security aspect. The intelligent LED lighting solutions allow lighting to dim 25 to 35 percent while maintaining the security camera images that are required. The TIA 942 standard addresses lighting for data centers over twisted-pair copper cabling, which provides more efficient deployment for less energy consumption than traditional lights.

How Anixter Helps You Make Informed Decisions

Anixter knows that small changes in the data center can have a big financial and environmental impact. Significant efficiency gains can be achieved at the site infrastructure level. To help data center operators realize these efficiency gains, Anixter created its ipAssuredSM program. Implementing an ipAssured program in a data center can generate up to 55 percent savings in energy costs by recommending the right products to improve airflow and power usage.

To learn more about creating an energy-efficient data center, register for Anixter’s Virtual Environment where you can view our video presentation on-demand and hear a panel of experts discuss their personal experiences with implementing and managing data center efficiency.