Feature

Managing the Energy-Efficient Data Center: A Special Report for CIOs

These numbers have risen quickly, nearly 40% between 1999 and 2005, according to a survey by the Uptime Institute, a provider of educational and consulting services. And they may double in the next five years to more than 100 billion kilowatt-hours, according to the EPA.

"Electricity, which is the lifeblood of data centers, is going up," says Andrew Fanara, product development team leader for the EPA Energy Star program, a voluntary labeling program initiated in 1992 to promote energy efficiency in products such as computer hardware. "When demand for something goes up, prices go up. We've been starting to see that for quite a few years, and you probably can expect more of that in the future."

If your eyes are glazing over at these massive numbers, here's one from AFCOM, an association of data center professionals, that will wake you up: Over the next five years, power failures and limits on power availability will halt data center operations at more than 90% of all companies. Market researcher Gartner Inc. predicts 50% of IT managers will not have enough power to run their data centers by 2008. Expect a rise in outages, along with a pressing need to add more space and power to meet computing demands.

Faced with such an acute need, Vyas spent six months researching and crafting an energy-efficient data center design. Everything from business-case analysis to power supplies to the local weather factored into the plan. Emerging technologies, of course, played a major role. "The new paradigms of blade servers and virtualization forced us to revisit and change our design completely, from cooling to airflow to power requirements," Vyas says.

Today, Viejas Enterprises has one of the most energy-efficient data centers in the midmarket. The single-story data center makes good use of blade servers and virtualization, giving it a high level of computing density. The layout and air conditioning systems keep servers relatively cool. Backup generators are at the ready. The data center draws electricity from a separate power line from the local utility. "If the power line goes down, we immediately switch to a UPS [uninterruptible power supply] and then, in a few seconds, switch to a generator," Vyas says.

This was first published in November 2007

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