10 ways to make your datacentre more efficient

NetApp expect that their new datacentres under construction will all match the EPA's "maximum achievable" scenario for 2011, three years ahead of schedule and using only today's technologies

Whether your company has already started down the path to make your datacentre more power-efficient, or if it doesn't even know where to begin, I'd like to share with you 10 techniques we have used to enhance our datacentre's infrastructure. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised to find out that these techniques are simple, affordable and easy to implement.

Customers both large and small tell us that power consumption and the resulting costs are a huge concern. By 2008, Gartner estimates that 48 per cent of all IT budgets will be spent on energy alone. That's an astronomical percentage.

In an August 2007 report, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US, painted a bleak picture. EPA estimates showed that if efficiency trends continue at their current rate, national energy consumption by datacentres will nearly double by 2011.

Over the years, collaboration among cross-functional teams within NetApp and our local utility have resulted in significant gains in the power efficiency of our datacentres.

Thanks to the improvements in our main corporate datacentre, we have already achieved energy-efficiency savings that the EPA is saying would be "state-of-the-art" for a datacentre in 2011. Furthermore, we expect that our new datacentres under construction will all match the EPA's "maximum achievable" scenario for 2011, three years ahead of schedule and using only today's technologies.

Here are the 10 tips for achieving the same efficiencies:

1. Measure to control

"You can't control what you can't measure" is an old maxim of operational efficiency. We've discovered that efforts to reduce power inefficiencies need to begin with baseline measurements. If you don't know where your power is going, you can't know where to focus your attention. To help measure our power consumption, we break it down into each of these categories:

  • IT Systems
  • UPS
  • Chillers
  • Lighting

2. Virtualize and consolidate IT systems

The EPA estimates that 50 per cent of all datacentre power usage comes from servers and storage, which makes them logical targets for power savings. A hot trend right now is server virtualization, an effective strategy that produces savings in space, power and cooling.

To realize the full benefits of server virtualization, you need a storage infrastructure that provides pooled networked storage. The same savings that result from server virtualization apply to storage virtualization: fewer, larger storage systems provide more capacity and better utilization, resulting in less space, power and cooling.

By implementing storage and server virtualization, we have moved to a more energy-efficient storage model. We replaced 50 older storage systems with 10 of the latest storage systems and realized the following benefits:

  • Our storage rack footprint decreased from 25 racks to 6 racks
  • Our power requirements dropped from 329kW to 69kW
  • Our air conditioning capacity requirements went down by 94 tons
  • The electricity costs to power those systems were reduced by US$60,000 per year

3. Manage data

While planning storage virtualization, we conducted an audit of our existing business data. We discovered that 50 per cent of the data we were storing could be eliminated.

The primary way to stop runaway data growth is to stop data proliferation before it starts. The average enterprise disk volume contains potentially millions of duplicate data objects. As these objects are modified, distributed, backed up, and archived, the duplicate data objects are stored repeatedly.

We use several different approaches such as deduplication, cloning and thin provisioning that all work toward the same goal - to reduce unnecessary data.

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