Ten Tactics to Get More from Your Data Center with Less Money

With data volumes growing at 60 percent to 70 percent per year (Gartner's educated guess), and power costs expected to increase by 15 percent (the power industry's educated guess), how does an IT manager make peace with the very real possibility that he or she won't be able to buy as much power and capacity this next fiscal year?

Where to Start Cutting Data Center Power Costs
Here's a listing of ideas from Emerson Network Power that can be instituted immediately in virtually any data center.
Cover Your Bases. It may be more difficult to recover from an outage during tough economic times than during prosperous one. A relatively small investment in precision air conditioning and backup power can actually save money. For example, precision air conditioning will adequately protect data center assets; building air conditioning alone will not. A double conversion backup power solution with adequate redundancy is essential to raising system availability and ensuring business continuity.
Look Inside Before Outside. Increasing density may be a more cost-effective approach to meet the need for more capacity than new facility development. For example, new cooling architectures can enable densities notably higher than average data center densities at a fraction of the cost of building a new facility.
Assess Before Action. Perhaps one of the smartest investments businesses can make in the coming year will be to assess their data centers to identify and resolve vulnerabilities that threaten availability, increase data center efficiency, and improve planning and budget allocation.
Go from Room to Rack. Utilizing an integrated enclosure system (i.e., data center-in-a-box or mini-computer room) offers a cost-effective solution to protecting the equipment that may be in a small data center or room. Instead of conditioning a whole room environment, just protect the rack.
Cap the Cold Aisle. Cold-aisle containment allows cooling units to run at reduced capacity to achieve ideal cooling conditions and save energy costs. This tactic is more efficient and effective than hot-aisle containment systems and offers a better environment for data center personnel.
Check the Weather Forecast. In many locations, economizers can be used to allow outside cool air to complement data center cooling systems and provide "free cooling" during colder months. This approach lowers energy usage, lessens wear on some components in the cooling equipment, and decreases operational costs. All together, it can be a welcome reduction in the data center electricity bill. It's also a reason why a bevy of new data centers are being built in Iceland!
Watch Often - if Not Always. The importance of monitoring what's going on inside the complex and dynamic data center is more important than ever. Keeping an eye on performance will help businesses steer clear of unnecessary maintenance and repair costs. Success in this endeavor will require IT and facilities to integrate disparate data into a centralized portal where actionable and meaningful information can be derived.
Improve Energy Utilization. Opportunities exist to improve energy use throughout data centers of all sizes. For example, adding variable frequency drives to cooling systems allows them to recognize reduced loads and operate more efficiently. Every watt of savings achieved on the processor level will create a total of 2.84 watts of savings for the facility.
Avoid Cutting Corners. A preventive maintenance plan can extend equipment life and reduce maintenance costs. For example, employ a battery maintenance strategy so that your business isn't a victim of the No. 1 cause of UPS failure -- bad batteries.
Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow. It may be necessary to minimize capital expenditures, but make sure you don't compromise future scalability. UPS scalability is emerging as a popular solution to reducing the risk associated with miscalculating future capacities. Statistical analysis of UPS system configurations in light of failure rates shows that system reliability begins to decrease sharply when more than four UPS modules are used in a single system.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...