by December 2, 2010 0 comments

The ‘Green’ dimensions of data centers is what we focus in this article. A ‘Data Center’, as we know, is a facility for housing computer systems and related components – such as telecommunications and storage systems. A data center is a central storehouse, either physical or virtual, for the storage, management, and propagation of data and information prepared around a particular body of knowledge or related to a particular business. For example, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is a public data center that stores the world’s biggest archive of weather info. A private data center may be present within an organization’s amenities or may be maintained as a specialized facility. One of the crucial roles played by data centers is in telecom network operations. A problem with data centers is that they consume tremendous amounts of power i.e. electrical energy and that results in emissions harmful to our environment (see ‘IT and Environment’, in Oct 2010 issue).

Some people argue that the data center itself can help sufficient number of online transactions to avoid people using their cars or helps people reduce consumption of precious resources. This, they say, will more than offset the impact of running the computing equipment necessary to serve data across the net. Consider this example — there are many online auction sites, sites for viewing products and purchasing them online. Imagine that eBay or many similar facilities never existed. In that case, people would have to drive their cars & physically visit the auction sites, malls etc.

Current Data Center Scenario in India, Worldwide
Due to explosion of data and ever increasing storage requirements of businesses & institutions, data centers are highly impacted. Data centers will continue to need extra hardware to meet business needs. This means increase in power consumption and cooling requirements. Electricity use at data centers tops $2.7 billion annually in the U.S., and $7.3 billion worldwide. The electricity costs are only sky-rocketing. The use of phones and mobile phones in particular is on the rise –combined together, telecom networks and data centers utilize around 4% of total world energy consumption. According to a data center business lead at a global IT company, if you were to implement all the data center efficiencies that could be reasonably achieved by 2015, it would save the equivalent of the annual electricity consumption of 1.8 million homes! In the immediate years, Data centers are liable to let loose as much carbon in the atmosphere as the entire airline industry.
In India, the power crisis is well known and at the same time, the requirement for energy is continuously going up due to the joint effect of many factor coming together — growth of the Indian IT sector, rise in outsourcing to India, investment across business sectors such as financial institutions, telecom operators, manufacturing and services. In addition to this, India’s total data center capacity is slated for an unprecedented growth – by year 2012 it is expected to reach 5.1 million square feet and is projected to grow further to 31% from 2007 to 2012. The data center environment is changing rapidly. There are advances in server technology ( virtualization, cloud computing etc.) resulting in unbelievable processing power. Although this is great from the standpoint of saving the expensive floor space in data centers, the impact on environment is not good because of the increasing energy requirement.

Towards ‘Greening’ of the Data Center
Reducing energy consumption is one of the major ways to bring ‘Green’ to data centers. Therefore, the key to making a data center green lies in understanding how energy is used in a data center. A data center uses energy in multiple ways, energy is distributed between IT equipment (servers, storage, network equipment) and supporting facilities (power, cooling and lighting); energy is distributed between the different components of the IT equipment (processor, memory, disk, et); energy allocated to IT resources is used to produce business results — so it is important to monitor if there are idle resources powered on, using energy without productive results)
Infographic below shows how energy is used in several components of a typical non-optimized data center. Note that each component is divided into two portions: IT equipment (servers, storage, and network) uses about 45% of the energy; and the infrastructure that supports this equipment-such as chillers, humidifiers, computer room air conditioners (CRAC), power distribution units (PDU), uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), lights, and power distribution-uses the other 55% of the energy.
We see that 55% of the energy brought to the data center does NOT go to the IT equipment. Therefore, this portion of the energy is not used for producing calculations, data storage, and so forth. The good news is that it is possible to reduce this inefficiency.

Metrics for Green Data Centers
Without ‘measurement’ improvement is rarely possible. There are a few measurements and metrics available to assess how ‘Green’ a data center is.
The two metrics DciE and PUE can be used an indicator of the ‘Greenness’ of a data center. Those metric sallow the owners of the data center to compare the results with other data center and take the necessary measures to improve energy efficiency. DCiE and PUE, equations suggest that the consumption of IT equipment power is measured after all the transformations of energy, switching and conditioning — directly in front of IT equipment. Therefore, the measurement is to be done at the place where devices are connected, and measurements are taken by using Power Distribution Unit (PDU) inside the cabinet. New tech wardrobe PDU called ‘control power to the outlet’ (Per Outlet Power Sensing, POPS) already makes it possible.
‘Green Grid’ makes certain recommendations for measuring power of IT equipment. Owning a data center should ensure that PUE value does not exceed more than two units, and ideally it be as close as possible to unity. The Green Grid is a global consortium of IT companies and professionals seeking to improve energy efficiency in data centers and business computing ecosystems around the globe. Grid Members list can be found at the URL

Data Centers are critical in today’s information-drive world. One thing is clear — energy savings is becoming a top priority for most enterprises. Given the environmental issues and regulatory pressures, going green in our IT operations as well as other business practices is imperative. Better still, if we can embrace green as our individual motto too. ‘Green’ thinking, ideally, should happen as a natural course of action –not merely due to the fear regulatory pressure.
Links of useful resources and study materials will be provided in the next article in January issue of PCQ .

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