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Green data centers make business sense

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DQW Bureau
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Going green is not about being altruistic; it is about making wise

business decisions, especially when it comes to data centers, which thrive on

being cost efficient. This is something that often gets missed in the excitable

information overdose that vendor companies are feeding enterprises today

A lot has been spoken, written and talked about how the environment around us

is being affected by the carbon footprint each of us create. This is all the

more true for large organizations which are in growth mode and are investing in

expanding their presence by building up data centers to run their businesses.

But while vendors touch upon the need to safeguard the environment one key

message that they fail to hit home is that going green or becoming energy

efficient actually makes business sense. There is a need to create an

environment of accountability for every bit of resource used.

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So what is a green data center? It can be described as a data center in which

the mechanical, lighting, electrical and computer systems are designed for

maximum energy efficiency and minimum environmental impact, according to Prasoon

Srivastava, CEO, Ctrl S Datacentres.

As simple as 1, 2, 3?



There is no single technology that can drive green adoption in data centers.

Said Sandeep Nair, MD, Emerson Network India, “To be truly green you have to

start from the processors and work your way upwards to see how much heat is

generated and how you can efficiently bring down the power that is used to run

these equipment and the cooling used to keep them running.”

The first step towards going green is to plan utilization of power sensibly.

This can be best achieved by consolidating server, storage and network

infrastructure. This is also where companies need to think beyond traditional

models of doing business and piggyback on alternative technologies. For

instance, virtualization has been talked about for over than five years. But it

need not be limited to storage alone; it can be extended to other aspects like

server applications or as well.

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Here is an interesting bit. For every 100KV of power used in a data center 60

percent of it is used to cool the equipment. This means that just 30 percent is

used for running the IT equipment! “The amount of power you can draw in a data

center is fixed. So if a solution provider wants to grow the IT infrastructure,

where does he get the power from?” asked Durgadutt Nedungadi, Director-Marketing

& Alliances, HP (India).

The Green Grid Data Center Power Efficiency Metrics: PUE and DCiE study

offered a fundamental measure of data center efficiency where the best way to

determine the infrastructure efficiency of a data center was to calculate the

ratio of the total power consumed by the facility infrastructure to the power

used by the IT equipment load.

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According to this study, Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and Data Center

Infrastructure Efficiency (DCiE) are defined as follows:

Building efficiency



Over the past two years, it has been noted that facilities and IT have

started working together to improve the efficiency of data centers. Initially

both were working with their backs more or less to each other. Today

organizations are trying to bring about efficiencies across the board; be it in

the IT equipment, applications or policies.

But at the same time, it is ironical that often solution providers are not

aware about the direct electricity cost of the equipment in a data center nor

are they aware of the cost of cooling equipment in isolation. “This ignorance

results in incorrect cost-optimization which in turn leads to misallocation of

resources and energy waste in many traditional data centers,” noted Srivastava.

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This is illustrated by the results of a survey done by the Experton Group

Study on Green IT that was release d in November 2007. It showed that of a

sample of 98 surveyed companies 93 percent of the IT managers were unaware of

the energy consumption in KW and Euro of the equipment in the data center.

Green data center can be

described one in which the mechanical, lighting, electrical and computer

systems are designed for maximum energy efficiency and minimum environmental

impact

When it comes to building efficiencies in the IT equipment, one has to start

at the basics which means start with the processors and then work the way

upwards. Power consumption should also be checked at various levels to see how

it can be controlled at different points. Besides this, the equipment should be

consolidated to reduce its footprint and ensure simplified one-source

management.

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“At the rack level, efficiency can be achieved with by enhanced levels of

density of the racks and intelligent control of power consumption,” said

Srivastava while talking at Data Center 2008, an industry event held in

Bangalore and Mumbai recently. He added that efficiency across data centers can

be achieved by having a policy-based workload rebalancing, ultra efficient

facilities and detailed power metering.

Building a green data center



Now that it is evident how important it is to have a green data center what

are some of the points that solution providers should bear in mind while

building it? For starters it is imperative they adopt the best practices in data

center energy efficiency as mentioned above. This will ensure a reduction in

operational costs from energy use in the physical infrastructure and keep the

door open for year-to-year improvement in the center.

Often 40 percent to 50 percent of the inefficiency inside data center is

linked to lack of best practices deployment. Therefore, there is no doubt that

the savings accrued from adopting best practices can be furthered fed into the

business, either for expanding the physical infrastructure or offering more

services.

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The second and most important thing to do is adopt an innovative approach.

For instance with power draw options coming down, there are companies like

Netmagic Solutions which are seeking alternatives for generating more power

including investment in biomass. Said Sharad Sanghi, CEO, Netmagic Solutions,

“Right now my power cost per unit is Rs 9, which is bound to


go up. It might not be possible for me to have a captive power plant in my data

center because that calls for very heavy investment, besides a lot of red tapism.

So we are considering other options for the new data centers that we are setting

up.”

Quick tips



Virtualization can be a savior when it comes bringing in better computing

performance at lower power consumption. Srivastava also advises that solution

providers should factor energy management in their service level agreements with

customers.

Some other tips that he offers included the usage of raised floor cooling

which gives more space for the cold air to navigate and ensures better cooling.

The next is the creation of hot side - cold side aisle so that the temperatures

can be controlled in one particular corner of the room rather than just

refrigerating the complete facility.

“Load balance the cooling units and run them to their highest efficiency.

Additionally, match the cooling technologies to the server types deployed in the

center,” he added. Besides this, solution providers should provision for longer

rows of racks and seal cable cutouts. Since water is a ready resource it is a

good idea to install water-cooled equipment and racks because for an equal

volume water can remove 3,600 times more heat than air.

Cabling can also play an important role when it comes to making a data center

more cost effective. “Cabling that utilizes new connector technologies that will

be compatible with the next generation interconnects,” said Mohamed Shahid Khan,

AM-System Engineering Application, Tyco Electronics. It is therefore important

for solution providers to invest in next generation Ethernet Networks.

“10GbE has penetrated into the access layer much faster than in the

traditional network environment and its adoption on the server infrastructure

will drive the need for 00GbE uplinks from


the access to the core of the data centers,” Khan added. “This is why we insist

that our customers use Secure Cabling Systems because it has common access

points that reduce the risk of inadvertent access as well as reduce chances of

unauthorized connections to the wrong network.”

There are these and other ways and means as well that can help make a data

center green. It is just a matter of asking for it from the right sources.

Vinita Bhatia


vinitavs@cybermedia.co.in

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