Consolidating Operations on Newer Servers
Of course, there are other things you can do. Brown suggests that you can probably save a lot of energy, and thus money, by consolidating your operations on your newer servers using a virtualized environment and simply shutting off your old servers. Julius Neudorfer, CTO of North American Access Technologies, agrees, and says that a combination of picking the right servers for the work and the right power and cooling solution for the servers will result in a major savings of energy without having to replace much, if any, of your data center.Neudorfer said that products are available to allow containment to be retrofitted in existing data centers, including solutions from APC, Rittal and Knuerr. "You can do it rack by rack without any major interruption of service," he said. Neudorfer noted that in many cases, retrofitting your data center can simply mean placing a transparent cover over the hot or cold aisles between racks. Along with cover plates on the racks themselves, this will provide an easy, do-it-yourself containment solution. Neudorfer also suggests moving the servers to the bottom of the racks, since the coldest air is at the bottom. Neudorfer and Coors both recommend finding ways to use what they call "free cooling." This means that you can use your existing ventilation system to bring in outside air, as Golding suggests, or use outside air to cool your HVAC instead of using a compressor, as is done with most AC systems. Either way, you avoid use of the air conditioning compressor-perhaps the single biggest energy use in the data center. But still, what about all those servers? Kosten Metreweli suggests making sure you actually need them before you even worry about moving them or virtualizing them. He said the biggest problem faced by many large data centers is "not knowing what's in your data center." Metreweli, vice president of Tideway, said that when he audits a data center, it's not unusual to find that data center inventories are wrong. "If we compare what we've found with what the customer has recorded, they've only documented what they have 50 to 75 percent of the time. They have servers sitting there that no one knows what they do." Metreweli said that it's common to find servers that support applications or databases that are no longer in use, and that simply shutting these servers down will go unnoticed. He said he also finds switches, routers and other network devices that are no longer being used but that are still running, still using energy and still requiring cooling. Equally important, Metreweli noted, is that many data centers have relatively new servers that are badly underused and could support virtualization, while other, much older servers are still running and supporting relatively little work. He said that these older servers could be taken out of operation and their work shifted to newer platforms that still have plenty of capacity. "We're starting to see companies getting assessments of their data centers," Brown noted. "They have to sell the CIO that there has to be some investment made in their data center." Brown noted that, in many cases, an accurate assessment, plus some simple moves such as improving the efficiency of the data center, will not only pay for themselves but will bring enough of a return that companies can take next steps, such as server consolidation and perhaps server upgrades. Contributing Analysts Wayne Rash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Neudorfer suggests focusing instead on more efficient use. He said the greatest return is on the cooling side, and for that, a data center needs a strategy for containment and keeping hot and cold air from mixing.