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Data Center Energy Savings: Start Small

data center energy manageCutting energy use in data centers is a big and vital idea. It can be intimidating, however. It often is best to start small. Basic ideas – some built into the data center from the design phase and some implemented after the facility is operational – can save money and lead to other ideas that incrementally add to energy savings.

One such idea may be as simple as a trip to the paint store. Dave Johnson, data center design and equipment firm DAMAC’s senior vice president of sales, told Energy Manager Today that the modern trend is to ensure that all equipment in the data center is white. White equipment – which may be built that way or painted once deployed – offers two related advantages.

The ports, rack unit (RU) numbers and other things that technicians need to see are easier to see if the equipment is white. This means that less lighting is needed, which is one part of the savings. The reduced lighting results in less energy being saved to cool the space where it would have shined. That is savings number two.

The color of the equipment is an issue that can be addressed in a new data center or during a retrofit. Johnson said that he is not aware of any research quantifying the gains generated by white or light colors in the datacenter. There is, however, anecdotal evidence that it works. This has made it a trend among DAMAC’s clients, which include all the big data center companies.

Another big issue is air handling. This, too, can be done in the design phase – for instance, by the width of the aisles – or after the facility is operational by changing out racks or taking other steps.

Johnson said that creating air flow behind the equipment in the data center can be done by creating a gap of an inch-and-a-half to two inches behind the machine. This gap – which he refers to as a coffin – enables cables to be managed in a way that does not impede airflow.

“When we talk to our customers [they say] the benefits of the coffin completely outweigh the small amount of capex they will spend to create X amount of offset over a three year period…Less restriction of airflow would be the best way to describe it,” he added.

Using light or white equipment and building space to enhance airflow are just two relatively easy ways to improve data center efficiency. There are many other ideas. For instance, Belden recommends putting smarts in the power distribution units (PDUs). It offers five good reasons to do so. Perhaps the most compelling is to help planning:

Is your data center at power capacity? At surface level, it may appear to be – but when you employ intelligent PDUs to perform outlet-level monitoring, you can pinpoint areas within the data center where simple equipment rearrangement may free up power or improve safety by moving equipment that is close to circuit limit.

Once equipment is moved to its new place, PDUs monitor temperature and other environmental conditions to make sure performance hasn’t been compromised.

It also is worthwhile to check out Emerson’s website, which offers Energy Logic 2.0, which is a deep dive into the best ways to save energy in data centers.

It is clear that a major job for data center managers – perhaps only trailing reliability in importance – is saving energy. It is likely that a high percentage of the gains are available from a small number of steps. Energy managers shouldn’t be overwhelmed: They should pick a project – even one that starts with a trip to pick up white paint at Lowe’s or Home Depot – and jump in.

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