Don't accept defeat against data center power shortages

Despite high levels of data center inefficiency, large operators are choosing wasteful expansion over sustainability

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Notably, the survey does reflect that data center operators are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of tracking energy consumption. "[Over] the past two to three years ... the industry has gone from power metering being the exception to power metering being utilized by more than three quarters of respondents," said Chris Crosby, senior vice president of corporate development at Digital Realty. "Awareness of PUE is also nearly universal now, with 96 percent of companies familiar with the emerging standard for measuring energy efficiency. These are very positive signs that companies better understand their data centers' energy use and can make informed decisions to reduce energy consumption."

However, I'm not convinced data center operators are making informed decisions to reduce energy consumption if, indeed, the average PUE among these enterprise-level respondents is 2.9. I understand why some large organizations can have a justifiably higher PUE than operators of smaller facilities. Depending on your industry, you may very well need your data centers to meet Tier III or even Tier IV requirements, which require an extremely high level of redundancy (such as backup power) to guarantee round-the-clock uptime and flawless service levels.

At the same time, other operators are likely guilty of overprovisioning their data centers, piling on far costlier, more wasteful backup power and cooling than necessary.

Further, given the high average PUE reported by these organizations, there's little doubt in my mind that too many data center operators still aren't embracing some of the most basic best practices to conserve energy. That includes relatively simple tasks, such as setting up hot and cold aisles, plugging holes in the raise floor, and raising the temperature in the data center to meet ASHRAE newest standards. Also effective for saving precious watts and reducing PUE: investing in newer, more energy-efficient power and cooling infrastructure.

[ Check out these 50 tips from the EPA for boosting efficiency in your data center. ]

On the IT side, companies have reaped energy-saving rewards from technologies such as virtualization, which not only reduces server count but potentially reduces power and cooling demands. Strategies such as thin provisioning, to reduce storage overload, and application mapping, to help track down and unplug or reuse zombie (that is, highly underutilized) servers, can also be very effective.

Door-to-door data center
Despite a wealth of opportunities to cut waste and save space, large data center operators are expanding their facilities and building new ones. Over half (57 percent) of the companies surveyed said they've built a new data center in the past 24 months; 82 percent said they would probably or definitely expand this year.

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