Energy efficiency, it's not just about the PUE of the data center

Energy efficiency, it’s not just about the PUE of the data center

IT and data centers are known for their energy-consuming activities and inefficient use of energy. Therefore, data centers strive to increase their efficiency, mostly by reducing their PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness). Whilst data centers are reducing their overhead power usage as much as possible (like lowering power losses by devices in between), the energy effectiveness of the customers of the data centers is not yet discussed that much. For an environmentally sustainable system, also the efficiency of the systems in a data center must be using the power and equipment as effective as possible. So, what can clients of a data center do?

To increase the effective use of energy, space, and equipment some standards and guidelines can be used with helpful tips and tricks. Increasing efficiency does not only contribute to a sustainable and green environment, but it can also reduce costs. When using less power, equipment, and space whilst providing the same productivity, the operational cost can decrease, and the green image of the company will grow. Of course, a commercial data center would like to sell power due to its business model. However, the more efficient their clients use the available space and power, the more clients can be supported.

Standards

One of the standards that are most complete and refers to most relevant ISO standards is the EU Code of Conduct on Data Centre Energy Efficiency. The practices within the Code of Conduct can be divided into two categories; the practices that will increase the effectiveness of the data center infrastructure and the practices that increases the effectiveness of the IT equipment (including software). As a user of a data center, the most obvious practice to improve the effectiveness of a data center is ensuring the integrity between the cold and hot aisles. Most other practices are part of the company operating the data center.

The practices for increasing the effectiveness for IT seem to be obvious for many points but needs to be highlighted now and then to be sure it will not be forgotten. When looking at the lifecycle, of course, it will start with the selection of equipment. Based on the hardware demands it can be beneficial to check the Energy Star, SERT or SPECPower metrics to select hardware that meets the requirements and have a good balance between efficiency and costs. Of course, to benefit the energy metrics it is advised to enable power management features in the hard- and software. Also, pay attention that the selected hardware will suit to the environment provided by your data center (think about airflow direction).

Besides the equipment, the idle time of the hardware should be limited. When shifting processes (e.g. back-up during the times there is less activity on the servers) the overall productivity of servers can be increased. Also archived and rarely used applications can maybe be virtualized instead of having a server idle most of the time. By monitoring the utilization of equipment (server, storage, and network) the peaks can be found and can help in discovering processes that maybe can be shifted to times that equipment is less utilized.

Data governance

Last but not least, data governance. It is a tough subject since storage is getting cheaper so it is easier to decide data can be kept since you do not want to delete data that maybe can be beneficial. However, data governance is beneficial for a sustainable environment and can be obliged by the GDPR if personal data is part of that data. When sorting all data that is kept by companies, mostly 70-80% of the data seems to be ROT (Redundant, Obsolete and Trivial). The ROT data will use power, space, and equipment. Although the cost of the ROT data seems to be low, summing the costs month by month, year by year it is money thrown away. Also, equipment is used that could also be used for productive and active processes.

A periodic review of the IT environment will help to keep your IT environment effective and efficient. It will help your business to only use IT that is needed and will help you to participate in a sustainable world.

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