Where to Start Cutting Data Center Power Costs

Current macroeconomic conditions will impact data center budgets--along with everything else--big time in 2009. It follows that data center and IT managers will need to get more from their facilities with less money available. Here's a primer on where to find the low-hanging fruit of power savings.

Data center budgets, along with just about every other budget in the business world, are being evaluated for 2009 and undergoing more scrutiny than usual due to uncertain macroeconomic conditions.
So, 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?
"Although we could talk about 21st-century, Buck Rogers-type stuff that we would love to do, the reality is that data centers can do things right now, today, to cut down on power draw; there is definitely low-hanging fruit," Jack Pouchet, director of energy initiatives at Emerson Network Power, told me.
Emerson is an international power-supply and IT infrastructure provider.
"As the father of teenagers, I can tell you that some of the things we're doing at home are much like the data center. That is: All the lights are on, the oven's at 400 degrees, the doors are open, the refrigerator's open, the faucets are all running ... we tend to run our data centers that way," Pouchet said.

To see a listing of "Ten Tactics to Get More from Your Data Centerwith Less Money," click here.Pouchet's first rule is to obtain complete and detailed understanding of all equipment power requirements and determine which units consume most of an enterprise's power. He also strongly suggested setting up corporate policies to conserve power, as well as upgrading to higher-efficiency equipment whenever possible."You start by knowing what you've got -- by understanding the utility bill. Most data centers, unfortunately, don't understand utility bills," Pouchet said."A lot of studies have been made on this -- by the Green Grid and others -- and we're finding generally that we don't know how much power we're using in data centers and where that power is going."Normally, power bills are never seen by IT managers and are instead paid by the chief facilities manager.Taking stock of servers, lighting, air conditioning, UPS (uninterruptible power supplies), and everything else electrical is the first step. "Then you can say, OK, we have a starting point. Now you can step back and say, 'What can I do differently?'" Pouche said.Maybe you don't need all the servers you have running at the same time, Pouchet said. Turn them off, then -- manually, or by automation."If you're using 50 percent of the capacity of all your servers, congratulations -- you're the only IT manager on the face of the Earth doing that. Most of us are using 10 or 15 percent. Try to increase the capacity for servers that are being used, and turn off -- or spin down -- the ones which are little used," Pouchet said.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...