Indeed, the piecemeal approach adopted by the vast majority of organisations is adding cost and constraining opportunities to truly create an effective, efficient and future proof data centre. Organisations need to look beyond one-off technology deployments and facility redesign and take a holistic approach that incorporates technology, facility infrastructure and facility services, such as tri-generation.
As Kari Baden, Managing Director, Dimension Data Advanced Infrastructure, explains, it is only by identifying and understanding the full raft of energy reduction options that affect the building, operating and management of a data centre, that organisations can maximise the effectiveness of data centre investment, improve energy efficiency and achieve quantifiable improvements in operating performance.
Data Centre Challenge
The energy issue has become a pressing one for any data centre manager – and even the IT Director. According to Gartner, 12% of all data centre expenditure is currently consumed by energy-related costs. Indeed, energy costs are increasing by 16% every year according to McKinsey and are expected to be the fastest rising costs for data centres as companies begin to expand the IT infrastructure and support business growth.
The issue is not just one of organisational overhead and corporate social responsibility pledges: it is estimated that the amount of electricity consumed by data centres worldwide grew by 56% between 2005 and 2010, and data centres use in the region of 2.2%-3.3% of Britain’s total available grid power, according to Memset. Organisations need to think clearly not only about minimising power consumption but also the way in which the entire data centre operation can become greener – through the use of alternative energy sources, for example, or even changes to the physical infrastructure.
This problem is undoubtedly exacerbated by the extraordinarily rapid IT growth and an aging data centre infrastructure that is, in many cases, simply not up to the job. According to industry research company IDC, the average age of a data centre is nine years – yet due to the extent of companies’ IT growth, Gartner insists that data centres over seven years old are obsolete. Indeed, in May 2011, data centre research organisation Uptime Institute, reported that 36 percent of the large companies it surveyed actually expect to exhaust IT capacity within the next 18 months.
These aging data centres are a massive drain on resources, with excessive energy requirements and significant operational overheads. They also impose capacity limits that affect both uptime and flexibility and often have design limitations that constrain the adoption of new, more efficient technologies.
To meet evolving business needs, organisations need to rebuild or upgrade/expand the data centre infrastructure – and creating an energy efficient design is clearly critical. The good news is that there is a wide range of options for addressing energy consumption, from improvements to the facilities infrastructure through highly effective cooling technologies and design to energy efficient technology adoption, such as virtualisation and unified infrastructures.
The problem is that too many organisations are considering only technology infrastructure and facilities infrastructure. Not only are they failing to address facility services – such as cogeneration (combined heat and power) or alternative energy – but too often each possible solution is considered in isolation, resulting in misdirected spend, poor return on investment and minimal data centre future proofing.
Issues such as cogeneration, trigeneration (combined cooling, heat and power), the use of alternative energy, heat recovery, energy recovery and self powering systems, are also fundamental components of the energy reduction and environment protection mix. They are just as important to consider as removing dead servers and upgrading old, non virtualised equipment, implementing free cooling or increasing the cold aisle temperature.
Taken separately, each will undoubtedly offer benefits in reduced cost and energy consumption. But it is by combining these solutions to address the key areas of pain that organisations can maximise the data centre investment.
Key to prioritising the investment is gaining a baseline performance metric. Typically organisations use the Power Usage Efficiency (PUE) or Data Centre Infrastructure Efficiency (DCIE) ratings which essentially determine data centre energy efficiency by comparing the amount of power entering a data centre to the amount used to run the data centre infrastructure.
An alternative metric, proposed by McKinsey & Company and the Uptime institute, is Corporate Average Data Efficiency (CADE) combines measurements of the energy efficiency and utilisation of IT equipment and facilities into a single percentage. A higher CADE indicates a more energy efficient data centre.
However, to achieve a real insight into the green credentials of the data centre, requires an additional measure: Power Generation Efficiency (PGE) is based on a comparison of total facility power and the total power from renewable sources. A combination of PUE and PGE provides a true figure of the overall green credentials of the data centre and will provide a tangible goal to drive effective investment and achievement improvement that will deliver measurable benefits to the business.
Data centre efficiency is a very real problem and it won’t go away: it will impact the ability of every business to deliver cost effective IT and meet CRC targets. The opportunities for reducing energy consumption are significant; the challenge is in ensuring that those responsible for building, operating and managing the data centre can work together to determine which options work best for the business.
With the right approach, organisations can drive down IT costs, improve asset utilisation and reduce carbon emissions. But this can only be achieved by taking a truly holistic approach crossing organisation boundaries, thinking beyond the scope of a single manufacturer and ensuring that every aspect of the data centre design, from technology and facilities infrastructure to facilities services is understood, prioritised and addressed.
Tags: Design & Facilities Management, Hosting & Colocation, Power & Cooling