New homes for hungry datacentres

Revised government guidelines and high energy prices make the careful consideration of datacentre design and location a business imperative

Revised government guidelines and high energy prices make the careful consideration of datacentre design and location a business imperative.

There is a worrying trend in IT departments to invest in space-saving infrastructure advances such as blade servers in a bid to maximise the computational power available within the datacentre.

But such cutting-edge designs are power-hungry and require a significant investment in cooling technology to be efficient. At the same time, datacentres have increased their power consumption, with more storage installed to keep larger volumes of data for longer in line with regulatory compliance.

What all this amounts to is a power-hungry datacentre design. With electricity and gas prices still trading at all-time highs, power is becoming a significant cost in running a datacentre.

Datacentres are making such a significant contribution to an organisation's overall power consumption and electricity bill that the time is right for businesses to look at adopting better energy management policies in the datacentre. They need to keep a tighter control of their power consumption, minimise waste and meet the ever more stringent requirements of new government legislation.

The problem lies in the fact that the technologies designed to save space and store large volumes of data do not sit within environments designed with better energy management in mind.

With office buildings being primarily designed to accommodate people, the conflicting demands of "people space" versus "IT space" are becoming increasingly incompatible.

Enterprises continue to expand their IT systems, but office buildings simply cannot supply the necessary power, cooling and security to minimise the risk of costly downtime, meet business continuity requirements and reduce power consumption.

By being inefficient and wasting energy, office buildings do nothing to alleviate the problem of rising energy bills for businesses.

Moreover, with UK electricity prices continuing to rise, businesses need to focus on better energy management planning. Their readiness to do so will be hastened by revised government guidelines. PPS22 and Part L of the Building Regulations 2006 lay down that both new and refurbished buildings have to comply with comprehensive minimum energy standards and are required to improve their energy performance by 23%-28% compared with previous guidelines.

The revised government legislation will affect all new datacentre designs. Datacentre equipment manufacturers, IT hardware manufacturers and designers must help datacentre managers reduce their energy use by specifying efficient designs that take the new legislation into account and reduce a building's carbon footprint.

With the Carbon Trust establishing carbon savings as an organisational imperative, it is only a matter of time before datacentres come under scrutiny for the significant role they can play in reducing energy consumption.

Power consumption continues to rise, energy costs show no sign of slowing and the revised government guidelines affect all new datacentre designs. In this context it is time for businesses to think twice about locating mission-critical IT systems in the same office building as their staff.

As companies grow and require more space to house their staff, it makes sense to consider locating IT equipment in purpose-built environments.

In switching to a fit-for-purpose datacentre, businesses can use space and power more efficiently and comply with the revised government guidelines in reducing the carbon footprint of their office buildings.

● Mick Dalton is chairman of the British Institute of Facilities Management and group operations director at Global Switch

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