Over the last few months I’ve spent a lot of time in data centres with our installation teams. Some were greenfield sites awaiting their first server racks, where we were only supplying installation services for UPS and DC Power systems. Others were operational data centres in which energy saving opportunities were easy to find and propose but sometimes a little harder to gain adoption for.
When it comes to energy saving, one of the biggest areas where savings can be made is cooling. Examine any data centre and I am sure you will find wasted energy thanks to poorly installed air conditioning, cool and warm air-flow patterns and overall design. Other saving areas include latent and under utilised servers which simply add to the standing losses within the electrical infrastructure as well as older UPS systems that could be upgraded to more efficient designs.
The issue for most data centres is that energy efficient operation is not at the top of their agendas. To serve the growing need for big data analysis, Cloud servers, the Internet of Things (IoT) and whatever other jargon you wish to use, data centres have one priority and that is to provide a continuous service. Clients are rarely concerned how this happens. To provide competitive services, data centres have to run powerful computing capacity, using the latest servers which in themselves demand ever more electrical power. Modern servers run hot and there is even talk to move the ASHRAE standard and raise the operational temperatures of computer rooms to help reduce cooling demands. No good for UPS batteries but potentially OK for electronics.
Over the next six months, UK data centres, like other large energy users will have to address the requirements of the UK Government’s Energy Saving Opportunities Scheme (ESOS); currently in Phase 1 of its adoption. The ESOS scheme is the UK Government’s approach to meeting Article 8 of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive to reduce energy consumption by 20% by 2020. If an organisation employes over 250 people or turnover and balance sheet values are over €50 million and €43 million respectively you have to comply. Furthermore, by 5 December 2015 large data centre operators will have to submit their own Energy Audit paperwork to comply with the demands of ESOSE and avoid potential penalties. So far only around 32 companies in the UK have submitted their reports. There are many at risk of non-compliance.
Whilst the size thresholds may seem high, there are many UK colocation data centre operators and organisations with their own enterprise data centres that are going to have to get their skates and audit their energy usage. Competent Lead Assessors must be appointed and a proactive approach to energy saving instigated within a building’s infrastructure.
For data centres this means looking at their critical power and cooling, lighting and server optimisation. For some DC operations, both the provider of the service and the client may have obligations under ESOS. Here The Environment Agency suggests that the party who is most easily able to action measures recommended during an audit be responsible; for colocation data centres that means the data centre operators themselves.
So will ESOS drive data centres to save energy? Yes but the savings may be only marginal unless an holistic and wide-reaching review is instigated with the budget to replace legacy systems. The data centre industry is one where marginal, incremental improvements are always possible. Walk past the rear of 47U high rack populated with Blade servers running virtualised servers and you can quickly see why data centres need to deploy so much cooling capacity.
Marginal improvements could be found through the fitting of air flow blanking plates but larger gains are going to come from looking at the complete air flow and electrical usage. Replacing older CRACs with in-row coolers and hot-aisle-cold-aisle containment can also provide energy savings on the cooling side. Replacing servers? May be an option but most data centres replace their servers as soon as they are approaching or outside the manufacturer’s warranty.
The same approach can be adopted for the critical power supply chain. Ageing uninterruptible power supplies which could be swapped out for the latest energy efficient designs (either mono-block or modular). Where a distributed UPS installation has historically been adopted now modular UPS systems could offer an in-row or centralised option that could also free up server cabinet space and in-hall floor space. The more energy efficient the UPS the lower the amount of heat added by the UPS system to the local ambient temperature for cooling, so improvements here could also benefit the cooling systems.
If you are looking at how ESOS will impact your data centre operation visit the ESOS website or call the EcoPowerSupplies team who will be able to provide you with a complete Energy Audit and advice on the best course of action to achieve compliance and reduce your energy usage.