A newdata center industry reportreveals that theres a long way to go before anyone can claim the sector is in any way green. By one standard, just 12 percent of the data centers the reports authors surveyed are either markedly efficient, or sustainable or, yes, green.
The report, assembled by officials at the IT company SuperMicro, considered what it called power effectiveness as a standard for judging a data centers sustainability. (Michael McNerney, SuperMicro vice president of marketing and network security, noted that the survey did not factor in a centers power usage effectiveness orPUE score. That figure is calculated by dividing the facilitys total energy use by the amount of energy consumed by its IT equipment.)
By the reports standards, a data centers power effectiveness was based on a two primary factors: its power density per rack (higher numbers are better) and its reliance on ambient air cooling.
Instead of just calling your HVAC vendor to get a new air conditioning [unit], there are ways to run these data centers a little hotter and reduce the power cooling cost, McNerney said. Systems are becoming more efficient, more reliable, and can run at higher temperatures.
The report notes that a data center achieves an additional 45 percent energy savings for every 0.56 degree Celcius (1 degree Fahrenheit) by which it allows its server inlet temperatures to increase.
So a small data center that had previously air conditioned its servers down to between 21- and 24C would stand to save more than US $6000 per rack in annual operating expenses by letting the mercury climb to between 25- and 28C. The savings climbs further, to more than $12,500 per rack data center operators allow the operating temperature to rise as high as 32 C.
Another 10- to 20-percent savings off the top could be extracted, McNerney said, by consolidating power and cooling infrastructure. This can be achieved with a single central cooling unit and a single power supply serving the entire center, rather than individual power supplies and fans dedicated to each rack or row.
The final component in assessing a data centers green score, McNerney said, had more mitigating factors pulling in multiple directions.
If you leave a server in place longer, you [generate] less e-waste, McNerney said. The flipside of that is old servers arent necessarily more efficient.
Of course, refreshing only certain components of a serverfor instance, its CPU cores, whose speed and efficiencies tend to increase faster than the rest of a server bladecan be part of the answer.
On average, survey respondents refreshed their servers every 4.1 years. The Intel x86 architecture roadmap calls for generational efficiency and speed improvements every two to two-and-a-half years. On the other hand, power supplies, cooling, storage and of course a servers physical chassis dont need refreshing nearly as promptly.
McNerney says many survey respondents found that software licensing costs, which are typically priced per core, are a key driver of server update timing. (A faster core can of course provide a better return on every software license dollar than can an older, slower core.)
We really wanted to highlight that data centers going down this green route can actually save moneyoperation cost, acquisition cost, he said. We need to move this from a corporate charity discussion to Clean up the data center and save a bunch of money while youre doing it.
The SuperMicro report gathered 1,362 survey responses from a worldwide assortment of data center operators and affiliated IT professionals. The respondents were mostly companies whose data centers were based in North America (79 percent), although 32 percent and 22 percent also operated data centers in Europe/Africa and Asia, respectively.