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Data Center Efficiency: 4 Ways to Save Energy

February 17, 2015  |  Written by Digital Realty

Are your data center operations as efficient as they could be?

An important part of the sustainability equation in data center operations is the efficient use of power. An energy-efficient data center can not only trim power and infrastructure costs, but also create a long-term strategic advantage.

And while we’re primarily discussing data center efficiency here, it’s also worth mentioning that another key component of the sustainability equation is sourcing cleaner energy.

To provide our clients with an “easy button” to source clean energy, Digital Realty recently announced its Clean StartSM program; check out our blog and press release about this innovative, industry-leading program.

Data centers are at the center of many of today’s important technological trends, from data analytics and the Internet of Things to scalable mobile apps and wearable devices. As a result, data center traffic is expected to increase 30% annually, and is expected by some to reach 7.7 zettabytes by 2017.

Energy consumption in the data center, absent increases in efficiency, can reasonably be expected to rise in tandem.

To make your data center more efficient, you may want to consider:

  1. Streamlining and virtualizing servers
    According to Aaron Rallo of TSO Logic, servers are good places to start in looking for possible reductions in power usage, since one watt of power saved at the server level can generate as much as 2.84 watts of savings along the entire data center power chain.Virtualization enables you to use fewer servers, thus decreasing electricity consumption and waste heat. Fewer servers can be used to perform the same tasks once done strictly by physical infrastructure, while existing servers can be repurposed or decommissioned. According to the Uptime Institute, decommissioning a single 1U rack server can save up to $2,500 in annual savings on electricity, operating system licenses, and maintenance.
  2. Increasing acceptable temperature levels and humidity ranges
    The higher the allowable temperature, and the broader the allowable humidity range in a data center, the less reliant the data center operator becomes on energy-intensive air conditioning processes. Google runs their data centers at around 80 degrees. Many data center operators are finding they can safely run many leading server brands[1] at much higher temperatures than they may have thought.
  3. Enhanced containment of air
    Containment enables the separation of hot (exhaust) and cold (supply) air streams via physical barriers. This ensures that cool supply air does not mix with warm return air before it can do its job – cooling the data center equipment. To this end, flexible strip curtains or rigid enclosures may be used to contain the hot and/or cold aisles. A containment system may reduce energy usage in a data center by up to 10 percent.
  4. “Free air” cooling 
    Bringing in air from the outside to cool data center equipment can be a cost-effective and reliable alternative to operating a full-fledged HVAC system. This “free air” cooling takes advantage of the local environment and eliminates the need to recirculate and cool exhaust air. And free air cooling is not just suitable in cold climates like Iceland or Norway. It is a viable option in many places with a moderate climate, such as the San Francisco Bay Area.

I’d be happy to talk with you about how your data center operations might become more efficient. Drop me a line here.

Kevin Dalton, VP of Engineering

[1] https://www.energystar.gov/ind...