5 ways to cut back on datacentre power consumption

These tips will help you curb power use in the datacentre

Cutting back on the amount of power a datacentre consumes isn't necessarily tricky, but it does require a holistic approach that considers the IT, cooling and power infrastructures. As Kfir Godrich, CTO for EYP Mission Critical Facilities, a datacentre consultancy, says: "If you are not looking at your datacentre from the utility input down to the chip, and then back to the power and cooling, you are missing the target." These five tips - some for the here and now and others for longer-term strategizing - will help you curb power use in the datacentre.

1. Don't overlook the obvious

Seal holes in the raised floor left by equipment that's been moved or uninstalled. Install blanking plates in empty portions of racks where network gear or servers ordinarily would go. Relocate perforated floor tiles from hot to cool aisles. Enable the energy-saving features of servers and computers. If possible, turn off the lights in the datacentre.

Such efforts can help offset rising utility rates, users say. Facing rising rates, "we replaced our old monitors with Dell Energy Smart LCDs; we turned on all the energy-saving technologies in the PCs that power down drives and put them in sleep mode; [we changed out] any printer that didn't support power-save functions," says Tim Sander, vice president of IT at Applied Systems, an insurance-agency management-systems company.

Carmine Iannace, IT director for The Brattle Group, a business consulting firm, says he has done likewise. "We've used blanking plates in our empty racks to direct airflow. We move around servers to balance the cooling load in the datacentre. In addition, we keep an eye on the servers that are in development - if they are not in use, they get shut down." Iannace also uses the energy-saving features of desktops and laptops, plus he mandates that employees shut down their computers at the end of the workday to save electricity. Further, he turns out the lights in the datacentre when no one is working there.

2. Energy-spec your servers

Pay attention to the type of IT equipment you buy because it consumes 50 per cent of the power used by the datacentre, according to a recent US Environmental Protection Agency efficiency report. Focus especially on x86-based industry-standard servers; they consume 33 per cent of the entire datacentre power budget. For example, make sure your systems vendors are not "over-spec-ing" power supplies or using high-wattage fans unnecessarily, says Colette LaForce, vice president of marketing for Rackable Systems, an x86 server maker. She recommends looking at systems that have at least 90 per cent efficient power supplies, which conserve more power and waste less heat than less-efficient models.

At Brattle, Iannace has outfitted all servers to run off of 208-volt power instead of 120 volt, so the power supplies within the servers are more energy efficient. He also upgraded the core Cisco network switch to 208-volt power. In addition, Iannace has incorporated multicore servers and consolidated through virtualization. The result has been a 50 per cent reduction in cooling requirements, he says.

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