How to Maximize Power Utilization in the Data Center

Today's CIOs are managing reduced budgets with limited resources. They must investigate how to optimize as much power out of the data center as possible. With the right kilowatt-focused strategy, a CIO can grow the data center, while simultaneously reducing power requirements. Here, Knowledge Center contributor David Robbins explains why CIOs should be concerned about kilowatt budgets, outlines strategies that can be employed to optimize the data center, and shares some lessons learned by implementing a kilowatt reduction strategy.


A recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on server and data center efficiency concluded that servers and data centers in the United States consume around 61 billion kilowatt hours of energy, costing around $4.5 billion and making up 1.5 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States. The EPA predicts that by 2011, the amount of energy consumed by data centers in the United States could almost double to more than 100 billion kilowatt hours. This represents a $7.4 billion annual electricity cost.

In many organizations, the management of the storage infrastructure and the management of the facilities needed to run the infrastructure are disconnected. There is usually little collaboration between facilities managers and CIOs during the expansion of storage. As a result, many IT managers and CIOs are faced with the reality that their data centers will reach (and eventually exceed) their power ceilings because no one is optimizing the "kilowatt budget."

Traditionally, when data requirements grew, CIOs would just throw more hardware at the problem without analyzing the root causes in detail. Adding more disks results in a proliferation of poorly utilized storage, and as storage density increases, so do the demands on power.

Many CIOs are now facing the issue of a power ceiling and they are unsure of the best direction to resolve the issue. In today's economy, building out millions of dollars' worth of facilities and related power capacity just isn't possible.

Strategic considerations

Whether you choose to undertake a low-cost, low-risk approach (storage and server consolidation) or whether you decide to take more radical action (complete data center overhaul) to reduce power consumption, the utilization of new technologies and your ability to build partnerships within your organization will be essential in achieving your energy reduction goals.


In the battle to save power, CIOs have many tools at their disposal which can immediately reduce a data center's power consumption. These tools include advancements in software technologies, many of which work in conjunction with legacy assets (thereby negating the need to purchase additional storage infrastructure). It is important to ascertain which technology solutions can address your specific power reduction needs.

Virtualizing storage with technologies such as deduplication, thin provisioning, snapshot copies or virtual cloning can provide massive storage efficiencies. By reducing the amount of storage required, you dramatically reduce the power and cooling associated with that storage.

Internal partnerships

As companies look for ways to do more with less, getting new projects approved will require you to develop a strong cost-benefit analysis in order to make your case to the chief financial officer. This analysis must take into account obvious elements such as the project's ROI within the budget cycle, but must also address any hidden costs such as staff competencies.

In order for the new strategic direction to be successful, your IT staff will also need to have the appropriate training to implement and manage any new technologies. The cost of this training (as well as the time necessary to train existing staff or add new headcount) must be included in any cost-benefit analysis.

It is vital that the IT team and facilities manager work together as early as possible to make sure the strategy in place is feasible from a power consumption standpoint. The facilities manager can assist in measuring current power usage to set a measurement baseline. This is necessary in order to be able to measure the success of the new strategy in reducing power consumption.