12 Ways to Save Energy in Your Data Center

Like most people, I love a good list – top 10 this, 15 best that, whatever it might be. So I was most interested to see a new e-book from Schneider Electric, “12 Ways to Save Energy in Your Data Center.”

As the intro to the ebook says, a big concern for data center managers these days is the rising cost of energy coupled with stagnating budgets. It continues:

    • The purpose of this ebook is to give you 12 tips and tricks that you can implement today, without much time, effort or expense.
    • Let’s call it the low-hanging fruit.

Addressing low-hanging fruit is pretty much always a good idea, but it was a bit disconcerting to read the first couple of tips laid out in the ebook.

Tip number 1 was “Power off unused equipment.”  On the face of it, that seems painfully obvious. But in large data centers it can get difficult to find unused servers, especially in this era of virtualization where server loads can frequently move from one physical server to another. As the ebook points out, tools such as data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software can help you not only find idle servers, but adjust cooling requirements accordingly as server loads change over time.

The tip that surprised me most was number 2: Arrange racks to create hot aisles and cold aisles. As the ebook says:

    • At this point in the history of the data center, this tip seems like a no-brainer. However, many data centers still do not employ hot-aisle or cold-aisle layout.

Yes, implementing hot aisle/cold aisle does seem like a no-brainer. It costs nothing more than some time and effort but will most certainly reduce energy loss and, as the ebook points out, prolong the life of your servers. Here at Schneider Electric we’ve been beating the hot aisle/cold aisle drum for years. I guess we’ll keep at it.

On the other hand, number 3 is a tip that I’ll bet many data center operators haven’t addressed: Tune redundant systems.  Redundant systems are those used to back up primary systems, whether a UPS, server or the like. Given these systems are typically running at far below their rated capacity, the ebook says you should tune them for fractional-load efficiency. Good idea.

I also like tip number 6, which is to install adaptable power and cooling. The idea here is to “right-size” your data center, meaning you have enough cooling capacity to efficiently handle the IT load that you are actually running, not the load the data center can handle when it’s at full capacity. As the ebook says:

    • By turning on power and cooling only as needed, you save on energy consumption and extend the life of your systems, which defers capital costs until needed.

There’s also a tip about using economizer mode to get “free cooling” during at least some months of the year. This is a timely one, as recent updated guidelines from the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) effectively make it possible for many data centers to use economizer mode more often. That’s because ASHRAE has changed its guidance as to the temperatures data centers can operate at, increasing them substantially in many instances. Check out this post from my colleague John Tuccillo on that.

And to learn more about economizer mode, take the short, free online course at Schneider Electric Energy University, “Economizer Modes of Data Center Cooling Systems.” You’ll find it in the College of Data Centers at Energy University.

To learn more practical energy saving tips, check out the ebook, “12 Ways to Save Energy in Your Data Center.” 

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