Green carbon laws drive data centre revolution

Keeping up with emissions standards

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For data centre operators, plenty of change is in the air. They have the ever-shifting and generally increasing demands for processing power and storage capacity. There are the swelling prices and shrinking supplies of power. Moreover, there's forthcoming change to environmental legislation that could have a profound impact on how, and where, a company bases its data centre operations.

I had an opportunity to hear firsthand how one data centre operator is dealing with these changes during a visit to Raging Wire, a managed datacenter host that happens to be Sacramento's largest utilities customer. During the tour of the 12.6MW, 110,000-square-foot datacenter, James Kennedy, Raging Wire's facilities manager, shared with me some of the strategies he's undertaken to cut energy consumption and costs associated with running the data centre. Moreover, he discussed future challenges the datacenter industry is facing and how current and forthcoming environmental regulation will alter the data centre landscape and drive cloud computing.

Like any cost-conscious IT company, Raging Wire cares about uptime, performance, and keeping energy costs down. To that end, the company has invested in an array of monitoring tools to track the performance of its systems, as well as the environmental conditions of the data centre. Its tools of choice include Liebert SiteScan, which monitors and controls Liebert precision cooling, power, UPS, leak detection, control panels, and other equipment; GE's iFIX, a Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) engine; and SynapSense, which employs wireless sensors to monitor environmental conditions in real time.

These tools prove helpful in tracking of the datacenter, equipping Raging Wire with real-time alerts when problems arise; current data to calculate such metrics as Power Utilisation Effectiveness (PUE) on a regular basis; and the ability to generate reports to present customers with a breakdown of the performance and costs of their respective leased sections of the data centre.

These tasks aren't entirely automated; you still have to figure out PUE yourself, for example. As monitoring tools continue to evolve and communicate with one another, expect to be able to figure out the PUE of your data centre, or even just one rack in your data centre, in real time.

These types of tools help with planning for changes in the data centre to ensure that few watts and square feet go to waste. If, for example, a customer wants to add more servers or storage capacity, monitoring tools give Raging Wire an assessment of what sort of power, cooling, and floor space is available, one that is far more accurate than the old-fashioned method of manually gathering data and crunching numbers via spreadsheet for a rough estimate. From there, Raging Wire can advise a client to, for example, upgrade to higher-power servers in their existing footprint, instead of leasing more space.

Measure it and you can manage it

Kennedy's assessment of his experience with SynapSense's wireless environmental monitoring system was of particular interest to me. SynapSense is a relatively new company, it's been around for a couple of years, but has already landed customers circling the globe. Moreover, HP, which once touted a data centre monitoring system of its own called Dynamic Smart Cooling, now offers the SynapSense system as an OEM.

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