Biz-Community (Cape Town)

South Africa: Take Greening Beyond the Data Centre With Intelligent Management Solutions

Reducing energy consumption and working towards greener business has become progressively more important in light of changing regulations, public pressure and ever-increasing utility costs. When it comes to the IT environment, greening practices are generally focused around the data centre, as it is often a huge consumer of electricity and can be prone to inefficiency.

While this is a sound first step, reducing a business' carbon footprint can extend to so much more than just greening the data centre. By linking the entire business facility into an intelligent Building Management System (BMS), organisations can ensure optimal energy consumption beyond the data centre.

The data centre is the lifeblood of an organisation and business cannot run without the information it contains. The cost of the data centre itself is constantly increasing, as more reliable, larger capacity servers are required to house, create and process data. These servers, in turn, have a higher demand on energy as they require more power to run and, in turn, generate more heat, increasing the requirement for cooling. This means that air-conditioners and UPS devices need to be upgraded in order to cater for this higher demand.

Quick wins are possible

As a result, when it comes to reducing the energy consumption of IT, the data centre is usually scrutinised first and quick wins are possible when reducing consumption. The reasons for the vast energy consumption of data centres are manifold, including the running of the data centre itself, to security systems and alarms, as well as cooling.

There are many advances in technology that will assist with not only increasing the efficiency of the data centre, but also of the business as a whole. Cooling is typically the main culprit of high cost and consumption, with the cooling of hard drives and servers in racks accounting for as much as 60 percent of a data centre's energy costs. As such, ensuring your data centre is cooled efficiently should be a first port of call when aiming to significantly reduce energy consumption.

Blade servers

Blade servers are a recent advance in server technology, providing greater storage capacity and efficiency. However, this is traded off against the higher power consumption of these servers, which draw more power and require directed cooling. If the air-conditioner is on the wall or the ceiling, the air has to travel a greater distance to reach the server in order to cool it, raising the temperature of the air before it reaches the server and decreasing efficiency.

This issue can be addressed using in-row coolers, which are situated between the data racks and direct cold air straight at the servers. Hot air is also drawn off the servers and reprocessed for cooling. Intelligence on the devices will monitor the servers with sensors to ensure that cooling is directed as needed, depending on how hard the servers are working, slowing down and ramping up the fans as and when required to maintain optimal operating temperature. This saves electricity for a number of reasons, namely that the cooling systems do not have to work as hard to cool the servers, waste is reduced and energy consumption is optimised for maximum efficiency. This extends the life of servers, saving money indirectly.

UPS tend to be oversized

Another of the areas to look at is the UPS. In a lot of instances, these tend to be oversized in order to cater for future growth. However, this means that they use more power than necessary. Modular UPS solutions can be right-sized for current needs and then added to as and when necessary to ensure adequate power supply in the future, optimising current energy usage. Super-efficient modular UPS solutions can also be used to ensure that 100 percent of the power used by the UPS is given to load equipment, reducing the amount of electricity wasted in running the UPS to deliver power to equipment.

These two aspects deliver quick wins when it comes to greening the data centre. With the intelligence in the devices, they can also be linked into a data centre management system. Working in conjunction with the UPS, the air-conditioners, sensors such as water, dust and smoke detectors and physical security solutions, cameras and so on, the data centre management system can assist with managing the data centre from a central location, managing and monitoring power consumption throughout the organisation.

A complex procedure

Using a data centre management system, the data centre can be made more intelligent and more efficient along with the organisation as a whole. However, this can be a complex procedure, as integration between various platforms inevitably results in challenging circumstances. When looking to take greening beyond the data centre, is it advisable to make use of a complete turnkey solution. This enables disparate systems to communicate and work together on a single platform to manage entire buildings, reducing carbon footprints across the board and dramatically lowering energy consumption.

When one examines the cost of data centres as a whole, improving the efficiency of the data centre has numerous cost-saving benefits aside from reducing energy costs. If servers are running efficiently and usage is optimised, the requirement for physical space is reduced. Through smart data centre design, space can be optimised and cooling can be directed more efficiently. Using intelligent technology, UPS devices can be right-sized and scaled to meet needs, cooling solutions can be placed where they are needed for optimal cooling and reduced energy consumption. Finally, by linking the data centre into a BMS through an all-encompassing service, energy consumption can be optimised throughout the organisation, extending the benefits of greening beyond the data centre.

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