Sunday, February 22, 2009

Data Center Energy Management – An Opportunity Too Good to Pass Up

Recently we completed a significant overhaul of our main data center. This in a state-of-the-art building that is less than four years old. Why would such a significant overhaul be needed so soon? Did we not get it right when we designed the facility, or did something beyond our control change afterwards?

The truth is that the answer is probably a bit of each. Largely, however, we were trapped by timing. Our building was nearing completion of the Construction Documentation phase and on a tight schedule when our IT group switched to blade server technology, dramatically changing the data center operating profile. We had two choices; stop and redesign the project or press on and revisit the inefficiencies of our existing design later. Knowing that there was an energy penalty to pay for not delaying we did so anyway because of the greater time and cost penalties associated with pausing construction. When the time came, however, we did it the right way.

Our IT partners shifted to blade servers soon after we occupied the new facility. Server virtualization followed as a second phase, followed in turn by a thorough vetting of the server population to identify and weed out obsolete and unnecessarily redundant applications and servers. Combined, these actions led to a sizeable demand load reduction.

Now it was our turn to maximize the efficiency of infrastructure systems. To do so we implemented hot and cold aisles, installed a suspended ceiling to reduce room volume, improved system redundancy for both electrical and mechanical systems and rebalanced loads across phases. The graphic images of our post-project air dynamics were things of beauty to our eyes, and validation of our success.

Today, we have a steering group of IT and FM managers who routinely monitor infrastructure systems and load metrics, and jointly plan and execute changes in data centers enterprise wide.

That’s our story, but it’s just one. There are hundreds like it out there. The point is that even in older data centers there is much you can do to improve your operations, energy consumption, and efficiency. For a good list of actions to get you started check out Marcus Hassen’s current article at

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