By embracing some fairly basic practices, the average data center operator can reduce his or her facility's PUE to 1.5. That observation came from Google Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl as he spoke about his company's strategies for cutting energy consumption at today's GreenNet 2010 conference in San Francisco.
The most significant gains, Weihl said, can be achieved by reducing the overhead costs associated with running a data center, including cooling, power insfrastructure, and lighting.
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The most interesting tip Weihl shared pertained to power infrastructure. Whereas most companies use large PDUs (power distribution units) to provide backup power for their data center hardware, Google instead equips each server with a 12-volt battery. Google claims this approach is far more efficient. A large UPS is around 92 to 95 percent efficient, whereas Google says batteries help it achieve better than 99.9 percent efficiency.
That's not Google's only server-related secret. The company has also revealed that it uses machines that are stripped of superfluous components, such as graphics cards and excess fans.
In terms of cooling, Weihl noted some of the more common techniques that have gained popularity. First, he said that data centers operators should create hot and cold aisles to prevent cool air from mixing with hot. Paying to chill air only to have it warmed up before it can do its job is, after all, a waste. Setting up aisles is the first step, but Weihl pointed out that air can still escape over racks and around corners of aisles. Google uses a fairly low-tech approach to prevent that mixing in at least one of its data centers: placing metal end caps at the end of rows and putting up plastic curtains, the kind you might find in a meat locker to keep cold air in while allowing easy access.