- stock.adobe.

CIO interview: Making datacentres greener

We speak to the CIO of Danfoss about how the company has used HPE GreenLake to improve energy efficiency

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: Computer Weekly: Casting a critical eye on HMRC’s IR35 checker tool

Engineering firm Danfoss has been an HPE GreenLake customer for over five years, and is using HPE’s as-a-service model to support its drive to improve energy efficiency in its datacentre environment.

“HPE started with everything as a service, and we have tapped into that,” says Sune Tornbo Baastrup, senior vice-president and chief information officer (CIO) at Danfoss.

The company began planning in 2017, and went live in 2019. Like many industrial firms, Danfoss has a mixed environment. “Today, we’re running Salesforce, and we have some Azure and Google Cloud workloads,” he says. “We also have some private cloud environments and a large legacy IT footprint.”

But migrating everything to the public cloud brings its challenges. “When I asked my CIO peers about their datacentres, we all know it’s very, very difficult to transform them to get into the cloud because there are workloads that have latency dependencies or there is a hard binding to machinery,” says Baastrup, adding that Danfoss wanted to gain the efficiency of the public cloud for the workloads that could not be migrated, which is why the company chose GreenLake. 

He believes energy efficiency is now a topic most companies running datacentres are focusing on, and that Danfoss builds some of the most advanced cooling technologies in the world. “We cool almost everything of a certain size and upwards,” he says. 

Datacentre cooling requirements are directly linked to the heat produced by the load put on servers, storage and networking hardware. “The way to look at energy should start with reducing consumption. If we don’t start with reducing consumption, we will not be able to provide enough energy,” adds Baastrup.

“Then we should reuse the energy that we already have in the ecosystem, and we should make sure that the energy we use is green.”

Heating, cooling and batteries

When looking at energy consumption, Baastrup believes businesses should consider the two modes of electricity use – heating and cooling. There is a wider societal benefit that can be achieved if datacentre operators look at supply and demand for heat and cooling.

“On the supply side, when we talk about electricity and the need to make sure we reduce consumption, [we consider whether we can] run our workload at times when we know there is excess energy on the grid,” he says.

“There are some robust platforms already in the market that can help us purchase power at the right times, but also making sure the power we purchase is green power.”

Looking at the need to cool datacentre equipment, where excess heat is the waste product, Baastrup adds: “It’s really sad that we call it a waste product because heat is actually a premium.”

Heat that comes out of datacentres can be used as an energy source. In colder climates, heat recovery systems can be used to transport heat out of the datacentre to heat homes. Danfoss uses such a system in its own datacentres, and has installed heat recovery systems in a number of other large datacentres

The challenge, says Baastrup, is how to distribute this heat. “Thankfully, in most of Europe, it’s pretty easy to build these sites,” he says. “Bristol University, for instance, has a new supercomputer, and is looking to reuse the heat coming out of that system.” 

Baastrup also sees an opportunity to make electricity grids smarter. The big challenge is ensuring there is enough grid capacity to cope with peak demand. Datacentres already use batteries in the form of the uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

“When we look at the capacities of the electricity grid, UPS capacity in the datacentre could have a role to play,” he says.

There is also the opportunity to use battery farms onsite at datacentres instead of diesel generators, which could be programmed to support peak grid usage. 

Although datacentres are generally built with capacity to grow, Baastrup believes it’s more important to focus on reducing energy consumption compared with building additional capacity. “It’s not a matter of stopping additional capacity, but we also need to address the energy reduction side, too,” he says.

This starts with ensuring that, at the front end, there is a focus to reduce the energy consumption of cooling equipment, which Baastrup says should begin with optimising workloads. “Make sure you renovate and consolidate your workloads,” he says.  

In the Danfoss datacentre environment, Baastrup says HPE has helped the company optimise workloads, enabling the IT team to run fewer servers. The company says IT strategy is aligned with its GreenLake strategy, which is focused on server consolidation.

There is also a server renewal strategy. “We want to get the workloads onto the right tech stacks, which reduce energy consumption and running costs,” he says, adding that there are no trade-offs when tackling energy efficiency in the datacentre. “As we consume less energy, we have less cost and we consume less datacentre capacity, which gives us a little more headroom in our growth journey.”

“We want to get the workloads onto the right tech stacks, which reduce energy consumption and running costs. As we consume less energy, we have less cost and we consume less datacentre capacity”

Sune Tornbo Baastrup, Danfoss

Typically, when provisioning datacentre capacity, Baastrup says: “We overprovision and, just to be sure, we overprovision significantly.”

However, having an energy savings target means overprovisioning needs to be weighed up against running workloads efficiently. By lowering overprovisioning estimates and running the workloads on GreenLake, he adds: “The analysis HPE can do helps us assess sizing capacity and uptime.”

GreenLake also offers a sustainability dashboard and green practices, which Baastrup says helps Danfoss understand the best scenarios for deploying and operating its technology stacks in an energy-efficient way.

Read more about GreenLake

  • A California school district placed its server and storage infrastructure in the hands of HPE GreenLake. Its IT director shares the roadblocks he experienced and the benefits.
  • HPE GreenLake has utilised new CPUs and denser SSDs to bring more AI and data lake workloads to customers looking for an alternative to the public cloud.

Read more on Datacentre energy efficiency and green IT

Data Center
Data Management