Data centre optimisation: Top tips

How can businesses achieve adequate efficiency that will help them to meet the rising number of regulations? Lex Coors shares his views on how best to obtain maximum data centre value.

With data centre greenhouse emissions set to overtake the airline industry in the next 5 to 10 years and quadruple by 2020, it has never been more critical for organisations to gain greater efficiencies from their data centres.

Tip # 1: Energy efficiency
The first step in data centre optimsation and achieving these efficiencies is through the improvement of a data centre's Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) ratio. PUE ratios can be used as a guide to define a data centre's efficiency or "green" credentials. Recent research has found that a data centre with a low PUE (between 1.5 and 1.7) that implements a lean design with established measurement data and demonstrable year-on-year improvements can be classified as green or energy efficient.

On the other hand, an inefficient data centre is anything with a PUE rating above two and which lacks legacy equipment, measurement and is made of inefficient components.

The first step to achieving these efficiencies is through the improvement of a data centre's Power Usage Effectiveness ratio (PUE).


Lex Coors, Vice President, Data Centre Technology and Engineering at Interxion,

Tip # 2: PUE reduction
For organisations aiming to reduce their Power Usage Effectiveness rating, it is important to focus on the following three areas: external efficiency, internal efficiency and customer efficiency.

Organisations should look to making energy measurements and PUE ratio monitoring a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) and aim to improve them continuously, following guidelines as described by the Uptime Institute, ASHRAE (The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) and the Green Grid.

Monitoring efficiency gains and losses and reporting these to the senior management team will create the awareness and the buy-in, which again will support optimisation within the organisation and highlight the technology and practices within the data centres that need to be improved upon or replicated, if applicable. This ultimately creates a working green gauge for data centre optimisation.

Tip # 3: Design
It comes as no surprise that good design leads to lower Capex and better efficiency, but what makes a good data centre design? A model that has had proven success in both efficiency and green credentials is the modular design concept.

The modular data centre design is unique in that it allows for future expansion without interruption to services.

Tip # 4: Streamline operations
Recent research by McKinsey and Company and the Uptime Institute has identified five key steps to achieving operational efficiency gains.

The first is to eliminate comatose servers; this will equal an overall gain of 10-25%. The second is to virtualise, which leads to gains of 25-30%. The third is to upgrade older equipment, leading to a 10-20% gain. The fourth is to reduce demand for new servers, which can also increase efficiency by 10-20%. The final is to introduce greener and more power-efficient servers and enable power-saving features, which also equates to a 10-20% gain.

 By following the above steps, an organisation can look to achieve an overall efficiency gain of 65%, significantly improving its PUE ratio.


Tip # 5: Customer service
The third piece of the efficiency puzzle is customer focus. An efficient data centre should provide hands-on expert support in energy efficiency implementation efforts as well as the best practice customer installation checklists.

Data centre staff should always be able to advise customers on how to reduce temperatures and energy usage through things like innovative hot- and cold-aisle designs.

They need to have the tools in place to measure and analyse efficiency, implement the latest efficiency ratings, develop and implement first-phase actions, and integrate figures and ratings with customers' corporate social responsibility (CSR) targets. Without the expertise in place, data centre providers will find it difficult to reach their desired efficiency gains.

Green and efficient data centres are real and achievable, but emissions and energy costs are rising fast, so the industry needs to do more urgently to optimise data centres, especially with the new UK Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) obligations just enacted this April 2010.

Organisations must work together especially when it comes to measurement. Vendors should be providing standard meters on all equipment to measure energy usage versus productivity; if you don't know whether you are wasting energy, how can you change it?

But it's not just vendors who are responsible -- data centre providers should give leadership in industry standards and ratings that work, data centre design, and operational efficiency steps and support for all customer IT efficiency improvements.

What is apparent is that the whole industry, from the power suppliers to the rack makers, needs to work together to improve efficiencies and ensure that we are all at the forefront of efficient and green

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