The primary operational cost of running a data center is energy consumption. So how can data centers maximize energy efficiency to avoid being crippled by power costs?
A guide by Jeff Bittner, founder and president of Exit Technologies, may help you improve your efficiency through technique, strategy, and technology, to help you move closer to that 1.0 power usage effectiveness (PUE) index. Additionally, these upgrades can improve your operational costs, and lessen your environmental impact.
According to Bittner:
Cooling: A large proportion of power consumption will inevitably be spent on cooling. Therefore minimizing the workload of chillers and CRAC’s is of primary interest.
Hot/cold aisle containment is an easy and popular way to eliminate heating chaos. Recently the use of rack-mounted, liquid cooling units have become more widely used, as they support the air cooling system -which reduces cost. Raising ambient temperature, using economizers, or creating a new thermal model through computational fluid dynamics, are all effective methods for enhancing efficiency without drastic remodeling or big changes to infastructure.
Aside from optimizing existing cooling paradigms, there are several other methods of cooling which can provide a significant efficiency boost beyond the standard practices:
Direct Evaporative Cooling: DEC uses misting to provide substrate for evaporation, increasing efficiency by up to 50%. However, it is not always a viable option due to specific requirements:
Access to a water source, a purifying system, a backup store, pumps, and regulators for pressure and flow control will be needed. This could limit this solution to data centers in suitable geographical locations.
Indirect Evaporative Cooling: This method involves channeling warm air from outside through a heat exchanger to facilitate evaporation, so cold air is pumped in. Simultaneously, humidity and heat are evacuated back through the exchanger.
The downside to this system is that the exchange of hot and cold air is less efficient by a few degrees, and two fans are needed. But, the benefit is that no outside elements or humidity will be introduced into the environment.
Choosing between these two methods of evaporative cooling is largely a decision based on the climate and location of your data center.
Immersion Cooling: Immersion cooling is possibly the most innovative strategy. Despite the effectiveness of the technology, it will be some time before the method is more widely adopted as installing it raises a number of issues and concerns.
The expense of retrofitting is an upfront cost that will initially offset its energy efficiency value. Hard drive compatibility is also a factor, as standard hard drives cannot be submerged in liquid. Once the area and drives have been adapted, the space efficiency of this system can be a huge benefit.
Initially, safety has also been a major concern. Fortunately, most solutions use non-toxic or non-flammable liquids. Despite several early concerns in the data center space, immersion cooling is becoming accepted as the superior solution in terms of power consumption, space efficiency, and long-term operational costs. More vendors have now also adapted their warranties to include this technology
Power: It is estimated that a third of server energy is wasted before consumption. Much of this is lost at the power supply from AC to DC, and voltage regulator conversion, so investing in efficient solutions is vital to counteract this issue.
Small changes can be effective, such as cutting out an AC to DC conversion stage by placing your backup batteries on your server racks, and arranging the higher voltages closer to the PSU to reduce line loss.
Batteries: Batteries are an integral part of power within a data center, that can be optimized for efficiency. When choosing the best battery options for your set-up, there is a range of points to consider.
Where VRLA batteries have been the standard for years, they are actually less efficient and more hazardous than their counterparts. Whilst Li-Lion batteries are more costly, they are more efficient, and last longer, but are flammable over 104 degrees.
Nickel Zinc batteries are not traditionally used in data centers, but the benefits include lower cost, faster charging time, and long battery life. This could be a safer and more environmentally friendly solution in the future.
Visibility: A virtualization landscape can reduce the number of servers handling the workload. This is an obvious benefit to energy consumption efficiency.
Deep learning and AI-based systems can be invaluable to data center efficiency -just as Google has reported with DeepMind and the resulting 40% increase in cooling efficiency. Verdigris are offering potential deep learning solutions, and inevitably more options will provide these capabilities in the future.
DCIM tools can optimize data center operations. Whereas DCIM doesn’t have the autonomy of AI, it can highlight unoptimized workloads, and manage building and environment controls to maximize energy efficiency. Energy-specific systems such as Schneider Electric Ecostructure IT can be more accessible than AI in terms of improving human insight.
Future Proofing Data Centers: As data center’s energy consumption continues to grow, we must be conscious of our environmental impact on infrastructure and energy, especially for new data center facilities. As the demand for data center capacity expands, cost-effective, lower impact, efficient systems will be vital. Investing in more efficient energy solutions and technology should be viewed as future proofing for both your business, and the planet.