What color is your data center?


EfficiencySince when did the color of a data center become so important? And why do you even care if a data center is green or not? The main reasons why IT leaders care about green data centers are:

  • A staggering rate of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Rising energy costs
  • Exponential growth of data, which requires data centers to expand in order to store and process that data

According to this IBM white paper, power and cooling costs have skyrocketed by 800 percent since 1996, and data centers use only 5 percent of their computing resources. This is due to the traditional one-application-per-server model and a lack of consolidation and centralization of IT resources and service management.

Obviously, energy costs and environmental effects have become concerns for business and IT leaders around the world. To build a smarter planet, we need a smarter IT powerhouse. Smart data centers will comprise the IT powerhouse.

In order to commence a green IT strategy, you must consider data center power usage and cooling technologies. For details, see this IBM website on energy efficiency. We are now seeing some definitions emerging to measure the efficiency of a data center. Two things of immense importance for a successful green data center are:

  • Careful planning and execution
  • Selection of the right hardware

You might already be familiar with the following two terms used as the efficiency metrics for data centers.

Power Usage Effectiveness

Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) is used to measure the efficiency of a data center. The total power consumed by a data center divided by the power consumption of the IT equipment results in a ratio known as PUE. PUE factors into power spent or wasted on cooling, transformation of grid power, mechanical losses and other non-IT usage. The processors, memory, networking equipment and storage and security services (firewall, intrusion prevention system and so on) constitute the power consumption of the IT equipment. (For more information, see my book Infrastructure as a Service.)

Let’s consider an example. What does a PUE of 1.9 mean? This means that for every watt of power spent on IT equipment, an additional 0.9 watts is used for non-IT usage. Undoubtedly this is an example of a very bad PUE, and it would not work in a green data center. However, research shows that there are some old data centers where 60 to 70 percent of the total power is used on cooling. (For more details on IT energy use, see the article “Energy-Efficient Cloud Computing” from The Computer Journal.) In these cases, PUE can exceed 3.0. These data centers are extremely inefficient.

If non-IT usage can be efficiently controlled and reduced, a PUE closer to 1.0 can be achieved.

Data center infrastructure efficiency

Another efficient measurement is data center infrastructure efficiency (DCiE). It is the reciprocal of PUE. For example, a PUE of 2.0 means a DCiE of 0.5. This indicates that the data center is 50 percent efficient.

Now let’s look at a real example. The IBM Poughkeepsie Green Data Center has demonstrated a PUE of 1.19. The corresponding DCiE is 0.84, indicating 84 percent efficiency for the data center.

As we embark on our journey toward a smarter planet and smarter computing, green data centers will play an important role. It is worth mentioning here that the IBM and IDC study “Data center operational efficiency best practices” found that efficient data centers allocate more than 50 percent of IT budgets to new projects compared to those data centers at a lower efficiency level.

Datacenter Diagram

Benefits of an efficient data center

It is important to strategize about establishing a green data center now. What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments below or connect with me on Twitter.

Shamim Hossain is an experienced technical team leader and project manager leading a number of complex and global projects with involvement in the full project lifecycle ranging from planning, analysis, design, test and build through to deployment. He is an IBM Certified Cloud Solution Advisor and Cloud Solution Architect. You can reach him on Twitter @shamimshossain.

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