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Cisco Achieves Energy Savings of $120K/Year in Data Center

datacenterrecirculationInformation technology (IT) managers are always looking for new ways to save energy in their data centers. Some businesses like Cisco are opting for high-tech simulation modeling to find the best way to reduce power consumption, while others like EvoSwitch are using a combination of green technologies such as free cooling and cold corridors to improve efficiency.

What’s driving the adoption of green data centers is the economic downturn as data center owners look for ways to cut costs, according to a new report from Frost & Sullivan.

It is estimated that IT infrastructure contributes about 5 to 10 percent of a company’s total energy, prompting businesses to look for technologies and solutions that would help significantly reduce the energy consumption of their IT infrastructure, says a Frost & Sullivan analyst.

The report, “Green Data Centers–Emerging Trends and Developments,” indicates that high energy costs are motivating chief information officers to find technologies that will help reduce energy costs, which include virtualization, cloud computing and power management techniques.

The report recommends that the IT industry focus on energy management software and to develop innovative platforms to increase the power efficiency of data centers. The analysis also advises industry leaders and standard bodies to promote the development of cost-effective cooling techniques, and researchers and industry participants to look at alternatives to reduce heat emissions.

In the case of Cisco Systems, the networking equipment giant achieved an estimated savings of $120,000 per year in energy costs by simulating a data center using Future Facilities’ Virtual Facility (VF) simulation methodology, which ties together cooling, availability and efficiency in one analytic model, says Cisco.

According to Cisco’s latest corporate sustainability report, roughly 70 percent of the company’s electricity is used to power equipment in labs, with the balance split between data centers and office space, which is driving Cisco to improve power efficiency in both its engineering labs and data centers.

The simulation results were used to guide the placement of floor grilles and blanking panels that lowered IT equipment inlet temperatures, making it possible to raise the chilled water set point by 8 degrees F.

Cisco said the 8 degree F increase provided a 30 percent reduction in power required for cooling.

Cisco used two techniques in parallel to improve the 7,000-sq.-ft. data center’s energy efficiency: a set of best practices that included blanking panels and plastic curtains to prevent mixing of supply and return air, and the VF simulation-based approach.

The data center consists of 3202 units of IT equipment that draws 770 kW and has 1 MW of total power available and 820 kW of cooling capacity. The VF analysis showed that exhaust recirculation within the cabinets was causing high IT equipment inlet temperatures and the need to overcool the chilled water system.

The analysis also showed that the blanking and containment curtains actually increased inlet temperatures for many units of equipment. Click here for the complete case study (PDF).

By using a number of green technologies, EvoSwitch, a Dutch carrier and data center with CO2-neutral operations, has lowered the average power usage effectiveness (PUE) of its data center from 1.6 in 2008 to 1.5 in 2009, increasing its energy savings from 40 to 50 percent compared to conventional data centers, said the company. EvoSwitch has set a goal to achieve an energy savings rate of 80 percent.

EvoSwitch achieved the savings using technologies such as free cooling (cooling by using the outdoor temperature), cold corridors (separation of hot and cold airflows), and UPS technology from Delta Conversion.

The EvoSwitch is currently working on a new cooling design that targets a PUE of 1.2.

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