We all know that data center energy usage is growing at a pace that far outstrips demand growth in other areas. Gartner’s 13% Combined Annual Growth Rate metric has been in place for several years now and remains constant, while global non-data center engergy consumption growth averages 2.5% each year. As if that weren’t bad enough the cost of energy is soaring at the same time. Data centers, yours and mine included, are part of the problem. New server technology and increasing densities are part of the equation, but they are only a part. And they are a part that most FM’s do not have control over. When it comes to the data center most of us say we are in reactive mode most of the time, responding to IT initiatives that we may not have known about until the trouble calls started coming in. What then, can FM’s do to be ahead of the curve, increase energy efficiency, decrease energy expense and contribute to good environmental stewardship?
Not all of the answers to these questions are difficult or expensive. Even if you are not undertaking a major project you can work the details inside your data centers and likely improve performance in each of these areas.
Chase the Air: Start by making sure air flow efficiency is maximized in order to minimize cooling energy consumption. Walk the floor with a keen eye and look for leaks or improperly placed air grilles. Pay attention to plenum penetrations for piping and cables and make sure they are tightly sealed. Pull cabinets away from the wall and look for openings that may have been allowing air leakage for years. Check the ceiling and do the same. Look everywhere, find the leaks and seal them. All that wasted air flow means an air conditioning unit is running to produce it, and that means wasted energy consumption, not to mention increased maintenance costs.
Investigate the Air: Investing a few engineering dollars to develop Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) models of your data center air flow will likely be an eye opening exercise if you haven’t done it in some time. The CFD analysis will show you where your hot spots and cold spots are and illuminate other air flow issues.
Organize the Air: Use the CFD analysis data to prioritize low cost and self-help projects that will improve operational efficiency, such as creating hot and cold aisles that will cool your equipment in the most efficient manner. If the analysis points to bigger issues then use the data and science of the analysis to justify capital investments required to take on more substantial projects.
Data center operations can be thought of as a three legged stool. Mechanical systems that provide air to cool the center, electrical systems that provide power to both the mechanical and computing systems, and lastly the computers themselves. In order to truly maximize data center operations efficiency you will need to apply the same rigorous discipline to each leg, chasing the details and resolving issues where you find them.
Good luck in your search for the holy grail of data centers – infrastructure efficiency. It may be a long and arduous task but the rewards are well worth the effort. Besides, just think of how green the grass will be then!