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Top 10 ways to save energy in the data center

A data center energy efficiency expert offers 10 tips for reducing energy consumption in the data center at the 2007 Gartner Data Center Conference.

LAS VEGAS -- Gartner Inc. has predicted that the cost of supplying energy to a server over its three-year lifetime will soon exceed the server's acquisition cost.

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 With this in mind, Chris Loeffler, product manager of data center solutions at Eaton Corp. in Cleveland, offered delegates at this week's Gartner Data Center Conference the top 10 ways to save energy in the data center. He said these "low-hanging" management options and technologies can combine to reduce data center energy consumption by up to 50% without compromising availability.

1. Turn off idle equipment.
Loeffler said the typical x86 server consumes between 30% and 40% of its maximum power when idle. IT organizations should turn off servers that don't appear to be performing tasks, he said. If anyone complains, organizations should look into whether the little-used application can be virtualized.

2. Virtualize.
Virtualization was one of the hottest topics at this year's data center conference, so it's no surprise that it made Loeffler's list. Vendors have said server utilization rates typically hover between 5% and 15%. Direct-attached storage utilization sits between 20% and 40%. Network storage sits between 60% and 80%. Virtualization can increase hardware utilization by five to 20 times and allows organizations to reduce the number of power-consuming servers.

3. Consolidate.
Loeffler said organizations should consolidate servers, storage and networks wherever possible. They should replace rack-mounted servers with blade servers because of shared resources such as power, fans, networking and storage. Blades require between 10% and 25% less power and cooling for the same computing capacity. Organizations should also consolidate storage, he said, using tiered storage for different workloads.

4. Use or enable CPU power management features.
Loeffler said many hardware products have built-in power management features that are never used. "Most of the major vendors have been using that for quite some time," he said. "You just might not know that it's been developed or put into the server itself." This feature allows the CPU to optimize power by dynamically switching among multiple performance states. It will drop its input voltage and frequency based on how many instructions are being run on the chip itself. This can save organizations up to 20% on server power consumption.

5. Use high-efficiency IT equipment power supplies.
"There are a lot of manufacturers that are starting to put things into the 80-plus club, getting better than 80% efficiency," Loeffler said. IT organizations that improve the energy efficiency of their power supply units can raise the efficiency of their entire energy delivery infrastructure. Loeffler said this could lower a data center's power and cooling needs by 15%.

6. Use a high-efficiency uninterruptable power supply (UPS).
UPS efficiency can range from 80% to 95%. "If you were only 80% efficient maybe with an older UPS system and you replace that with a newer UPS system that's getting 95% efficiency, there's tremendous gain to be had," Loeffler said. "That might be something to look at if you are running a system that was built back in the '80s or '90s -- there's an efficiency improvement possible by replacing out some of those older systems."

7. Adopt power distribution at 208 volts or 230 volts for servers.
Using high-voltage power cords such as 208 volts or 230 volts instead of standard 120-volt power distribution can push server power efficiency from 82% to 84% or 85%. "All you have to do is make sure when you're deploying your servers and deploying your power distribution into your racks, use the high-voltage power distribution capability and the capability the servers actually have. And that is to keep the voltage as high as possible feeding to the server," Loeffler said.

8. Adopt cooling best practices.
Loeffler said many data centers may use hot aisle/cold aisle configurations to improve cooling efficiency, but there are also some small things they can do. Simple "blanking panels" can be installed in server racks that have empty slots. "That's a great way to make sure the cold air in the cold aisle doesn't start mixing with the hot air in the hot aisle any sooner than it needs to," he said.

Loeffler said organizations should also seal cable cutouts to minimize airflow bypasses. He said data organizations should consider air handlers and chillers that use efficient technologies such as variable frequency drives, which adjust how fast the air conditioning system's motors run when cooling needs dip.

9. Assess the utilization and efficiency issues in your data center.
In addition to turning off unused IT equipment, as mentioned above, organizations should also retire unused software applications and focus on adopting more effective software that requires extra CPU cycles.

10. Prioritize actions to reduce the energy needs of your data center.
Loeffler said organizations should identify and prioritize the steps needed to reduce the energy needs of a data center. He said IT should get executive-level support before embarking on these efficiency gains and form a cross-functional team to develop an energy strategy for IT operations.


Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Writer.

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