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Reducing Data Center Power Usage

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on November 19, 2009

IT managers today are looking to curb the energy hogs in their data centers in order to limit spiraling energy costs by reducing power consumption, as well as cut overall environmental impact. Reducing data center power usage is a twofold process—the product of actually reducing power consumption by removing elements from the environment, as well as introducing more efficient components that can handle greater workloads, using the same or less power.

To get started, your organization might reduce power usage by retiring older systems and consolidating them onto virtualized platforms. This would enable you to more efficiently pool physical resources and improve network management capabilities. At the onset of consolidation, there is typically an immediate drop in the amount of power used, but the practice of consolidation and virtualization must continue in order to keep the power growth curve moving in the right direction. Occasionally an organization might see a brief rise in power usage when virtualizing for the first time, due to the need to install the new physical servers on which the virtual servers will eventually run. This spike in growth will reverse as older servers are virtualized and their former physical counterparts decommissioned.

Eventually, your organization may return to the same amount of power consumed pre-virtualization. By the time this happens, however, you should be realizing much higher workloads than previously possible, and thus increasing the overall efficiency of data center power usage.

As you look for additional avenues to reduce power consumption, also consider these quick tips:

1. Monitor the "lifecycle of usefulness" of your power and distribution systems. Inefficient equipment—often seven years old or older—can cause up to 50% of the energy you pay for to be dissipated as heat.

2. Look for ways to optimize your current cooling strategy, especially for modern, high-density equipment. Consider adopting "in-row" or "in-cabinet" cooling strategies that use less energy in heat removal.

3. Make sure your data center instrumentation includes sensors that enable you to monitor heat generation, power consumption, and overall cooling effectiveness.

Kris Domich
Principal Consultant
Dimension Data
New York

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