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Five Best Practices to Boost Data Center Efficiency

Industry giant, Google recently opened the doors to its once top secret data centers. The company relies on several large-scale data centers and smaller network point of presences (POPs) to deliver its web services and has spent more than a decade working to improve its energy efficiency. Whether you’re running a small or large data center, here are 5 key points from Google’s unveiling that can help improve efficiency, slash costs, and lessen the environmental impacts:

  1. Track PUE. The industry employs a ratio called Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) to calculate energy used for non-computing functions such as cooling and power distribution. Since you can’t manage what you don’t measure, be sure to track your data center’s energy use on a regular basis.  It’s even more important to capture energy data over the entire year, since seasonal weather variations affect PUE.
  1. Manage air flow. Since proper air flow management is critical to efficient data center operation, minimize the mixture of hot and cold air by using well-designed containment. Also, be sure to eliminate hot spots and use blanking plates (or flat sheets of metal) for any empty slots in your rack. For Google, some basic analysis has yielded big payoffs. For example, the company found that thermal modeling using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can help quickly optimize air flow without having to reorganize a computing room.
  1. Turn up the thermostat. Google reports that the need to maintain data centers at 70°F is a myth; virtually all equipment manufacturers allow you to run your cold aisle at 80°F or higher. If your facility uses an economizer (which Google highly recommends), run elevated cold aisle temperatures to enable more days of “free cooling” — resulting in higher energy savings.
  1. Rely on free cooling. Since chillers typically use the most energy in a data center’s cooling infrastructure, you may reap the largest opportunity for savings by minimizing their use. Instead, Google suggests taking advantage of “free cooling” to remove heat from your facility, through methods such as using low temperature ambient air, evaporating water, or a large thermal reservoir. While there are several ways to acheive “free cooling,” a proven and easily accessible solution is a water or air-side economizer.
  1. Optimize power distribution. The key to minimizing power distribution losses is to eliminate as many power conversion steps as possible. For necessary conversion steps, Google recommends deploying efficient equipment transformers and power distribution units (PDUs). And, because one of the largest losses in data center power distribution is often from uninterruptible power systems (UPSs), it’s crucial to choose a high-efficiency model. Finally, line losses can be reduced by keeping high voltages as close to the power supply as possible.

John Collins has over 20 years of experience in the data center industry. He joined Eaton in January 2011 and is focused on ensuring Eaton’s data center products and solution offerings evolve with the market. This article originally appeared on The Plug, Eaton’s resource portal for IT professionals.

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