Greening the data centre

The data centre is a major user of power in most companies and is therefore likely to feature strongly in most green IT plans. Designing or converting a data centre for maximum efficiency is, however, a complex process, as most data centres...

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The data centre is a major user of power in most companies and is therefore likely to feature strongly in most green IT plans. Designing or converting a data centre for maximum efficiency is, however, a complex process, as most data centres support systems that are ‘mission critical’ to the business.

The Green IT Assessment we undertook for the cruise company Carnival UK highlighted the fact that, in its case, the IT department as a whole accounted for as much as a third of the office building’s carbon emissions. Significantly, around half of this was used simply for cooling the data centre.

Through virtualisation, Carnival UK had already reduced the amount of servers it had from 150 to around 15 and the new facility was a considerable improvement on the previous data rooms that the company had used.

This most recent data centre facility, however, was not designed with the new system in mind and had been created to allow for the greater number of older servers.

As modern equipment doesn’t need to be kept at 18-20ºC (the latest recommendations say that you can run the data centre at 25-26ºC) we calculated that by increasing the temperature of the ambient air in the room and circulating it more efficiently through the computer, Carnival could comfortably chill just a fraction of the air that it was cooling and therefore significantly cut energy usage.

Our first recommendation for improving the Carnival UK data centre was to look at the infrastructure and reduce inefficiency by removing some of the redundant equipment.

To improve cooling efficiency, we recommended raising the temperature in the data centre in stages and introducing ‘hot aisle’ containment - something which can often be done as simply as by sectioning-off the different equipment using curtains.

As there was little or no monitoring in-place at the Carnival facility to allow comparisons of power, IT utilisation and cooling, we recommended installing power meters as well as temperature and humidity monitors. In future, this change would make it far easier to measure energy use as well as identify and justify any further improvements.

Post by Murray Sherwood, managing director of green IT consultancy Externus

Next Time: Murray explains how Servers, Storage and Applications can become more energy efficient

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