Data Centre Energy Efficiency Management

Business Issue

With energy costs expected to double over the next ten (10) years and the amount of energy consumed by the data centre also expected to double, IT energy costs have increased prominence in executive thinking.

Unless dealt with, this double whammy has serious potential to affect an organisations ability, whether commercial or government, to grow its services or develop shareholder value through increased business activity.

However, responsibilities for managing energy resources can be fragmented, conflicting objectives may exist between different departments and IT professionals both managers and technicians alike are not trained in energy resource management.

Power Breakdown of the Data Centre
Figure:1 Power Breakdown of the Data Centre

Through PUE and DCiE, industry consultants and the media have been raising awareness on the imbalance between IT equipment energy costs and the cost of energy for the infrastructure to support it.

Unfortunately this only highlights the headline opportunity which although makes great sound-bites does not get into the real issues that need addressing.

It is well understood that legacy data centres are inefficient but a perception exists that new data centres resolves the energy issue. This is partly true in as much that a new data centre is able to take advantage of new technologies and infrastructure design; with the resulting PUE often very close to 1.

Nonetheless, over time technology changes and there are many other aspects of IT and its management processes that can affect data centre energy efficiency and IT service productivity. Without consideration for these methods and how they interact with other systems and processes in the service delivery model, any benefits received through the deployment of advanced technology may be eroded over time through process immaturity.

Recently a wave of new technology solutions under the banner of Green IT have come to market. These new solutions bring great promise but their complexity and diverseness can make the promised benefits difficult to fully appreciate.

This problem can be exacerbated by the vendor-led approach that delivers the prospect of piecemeal or point solutions being deployed that struggle to achieve the level of integration or transformation necessary to justify their investment.

Consequently, careful consideration should be made before allowing the resolution of the consumption and cost issues currently taking centre stage to be left to point solutions that degrade over time or to market forces and vendor-led product selection that address only part of the problem.

Business Solution

Embracing the issue of energy holistically as a complete and inclusive discipline provides a management solution to the problem.

The name of this new discipline is Data Centre Energy Efficiency Management and it can be defined as a strategic business-aligned approach to managing the current and future energy requirements of the data centre and smaller IT computer rooms.

As such Data Centre Energy Efficiency Management establishes a framework for integrating energy efficiency in the data centre into standard management practices. It can and should be aligned with the implemented systems management framework, such as ITIL, Six Sigma and TQM where common terminology and objectives have resulted in repeatable models that deliver high quality IT services while reducing overall costs.

Further advantages of this framework approach include:

  1. Optimisation of existing energy-consuming IT assets.
  2. Delivery of high value management reporting that benchmarks, measures and reports on energy consumption, including carbon emissions and planned improvements.
  3. Ensures seamless communication between stakeholders on the management of energy resources.
  4. Implementation of energy efficiency best practices and preferred energy management behaviours.
  5. Prioritised evaluation of new energy-efficient technologies.
  6. Reduced costs through energy efficiency promotion through the supply chain.

Although itís primary aim is to deliver continuity of energy supply at the correct cost for the delivery of IT services, this considered approach is in concert with organisation-wide objectives for managing carbon emissions, achieving CSR aims and integrate with a corporate energy management system, such as BS EN 16001 or ISO 50001.

Using this process-focused approach to understanding and managing the energy management requirements for IT, Data Centre Energy Efficiency Management remains vendor independent and instils the process of regular and repeatable consideration of current best practice to be reviewed and applied in accordance with a pragmatic, considered and regulated programme of change for the data centre.

It also ensures that as technology changes are applied, processes are also considered and adjusted accordingly and as the data centre infrastructure evolves, the changes are business-led as opposed to technology-driven.

Being concerned with all aspects of data centre infrastructure Data Centre Energy Efficiency Management implements a standard iterative management cycle of assessment, planning, implementation, review and modification and in this way it is therefore no different to any other management discipline conducted in the data centre or wider business.

Embracing Data Centre Energy Efficiency Management

Many organisations are already implementing aspects of technology that can be considered within a Green IT strategy, such as virtualisation, data de-duplication, , thin provisioning or free-air cooling and as such will receive the benefits associated with that advancement in technology.

However, the benefits of adopting an energy management system, that would assist in driving forward such programmes for the data centre can deliver longer term and more lasting benefits whilst adding agility to the data centre in its ability to respond to changes in business requirements.

With an objective to implement an energy efficient data centre infrastructure and existing projects ongoing, the starting place for energy efficiency management is assessment and benchmarking followed by monitoring and measuring. These activities can then be used to drive the iterative management processes that can lead to increased productivity of the IT equipment, a reduction in energy consumption per unit of work and cost and more agile energy resources.

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