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Is "Green" still a hot topic?

Is "Green" still a hot topic?

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Published by: quocirca on Jul 01, 2013
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Just how hot is green nowadays?
 
Clive Longbottom, Service Director 
Quocirca Comment 
 
Just how hot is green nowadays? http://www.quocirca.com © 2013 Quocirca Ltd 
It may seem that the drive for a green,sustainable data centre has died off somewhatfrom a few years back when it seemed the pushwas on to be seen to be doing everything possibleto save the planet. However, even when it is notwrapped up in a sustainability message, manyorganisations are implementing green policies
 but for the very reason of saving money throughoptimising energy usage, not due to any realdesire for being seen to be green.One of the main drivers behind the need to cutback on energy usage is the obvious one
energyprices are unlikely to come down in theforeseeable future: indeed, they are trending everupwards and data centres use a lot of energy. Theother driver in the UK that is beginning to haveimpact is the Carbon Reduction CommitmentEnergy Efficiency Scheme, commonly known asthe CRC. The CRC was originally conceived as anet cash neutral scheme, where those who coulddemonstrate that their usage of energy was beingoptimised would gain money and those whoshowed little to no improvement who would losemoney. However, the CRC has changed to beinga straight tax on all organisations caught in itsweb on how much energy they use. Currently,the CRC applies only to those organisations whouse large amounts of electricity
but as thegovernment searches for new tax revenues, it islikely to be expanded in scope to cover moreorganisations over time.The drive for energy efficiency in the data centreshould therefore be even stronger.Many existing data centres are being run againstold-style environmental designs, where theapproach to cooling is based around ensuring thatinput cooling air is at such a low temperature thatoutlet air does not exceed a set temperature. Inmany cases, the aim has been to keep theaverage volumetric temperature in the datacentre around 20°C or lower, with some runningat between 15-17°C.A data centre with a floor area of 1,000 m² and aceiling-to-floor height of 3m will require thecooling of 3,000 m³ of air. To ensure that theaverage temperature remains within limits, the airwill need to be flowing, and this leads to a
measure called “air change rate” (ACR). Many
data centres will be working at an ACR of around100-200 per hour, leading to a need for up to600,000 m³ of air to be cooled per hour.The costs of cooling so much air to well belowstandard air temperature can be enormous
butis it really required?The first thing that needs to be done is to assessthe existing data centre. The best way to do thisis to implement temperature monitoring systemsaround the data centre. By this, Quocirca doesnot mean just using thermometers
the use of infra-red heat cameras will help in identifyingwhere the data centre has existing hot spots thatneed addressing.Once the existing environment is mapped out andheat issues identified, it becomes possible to startto re-plan the data centre. It may be that a rackhas been filled with 1 or 2U servers and thedensity of hot CPUs is leading to issues. It maybe possible to spread these servers over two ormore racks, or to mix the servers with lower heatcreating items such as solid state storage ornetwork termination boards so that there arefewer hot spots being created.It may become apparent that certain items of equipment have very high thermal issues. Inmost cases, this will be because the equipment is
 “old” (i.e. more than 3 years old). It will be cost
effective in many cases to replace such equipmentwith a more modern equivalent. Firstly, thenewer equipment will be more energy efficientdue to improvements in design and engineering.Secondly, it will have fewer thermal problems
 again, down to improvements in chip andengineering design.Next is to look at how cooling can be bestimplemented. In the example of the 1,000 data centre, there is a lot of air being cooled thatis doing little in the way of cooling the IT
 
 
Just how hot is green nowadays? http://www.quocirca.com © 2013 Quocirca Ltd 
equipment. By containing the cooling air flowsand directing it where it is most needed, muchhigher efficiencies can be obtained. The use of hot and cold aisles makes this possible
and it
doesn’t necessarily require large investment in
the technology.In many cases, it is possible to take existing racksand use polycarbonate sheeting over the aisleswith plastic doors at the end of the rows to createa sufficiently contained environment to bring thevolume needed to be temperature controlleddown by an order of magnitude.If the racks have been redesigned to ensure thatthere are fewer hot spots, the use of blankingplates and flow-direction plates can ensure thatcooling air is directed exactly where it is mostneeded, lowering the ACR and saving furtherenergy. This is where computation fluid dynamics(CFD) comes in useful. Being able to map air
flows and to carry out “what
-
if?” scenarios
enables air flows to be optimised to ensure thatcooling air hits the hotter areas of IT equipmenteffectively, and that cooling air is not wasted byflowing over other areas. CFD software isincreasingly included in data centre infrastructuremanagement (DCIM) suites from the likes of nlyte, Emerson Network Power, Eaton and others.Further savings can be made by reassessing thethermal envelope in which the data centre works.The American Society of Heating, Refrigerationand Air conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) provideguidelines on best practice for data centre thermaloperation, and these guidelines have beenchanging over the past few years.
ASHRAE’s o
riginal 2004 guidelines aimed for amaximum allowable temperature of around 25°C.By 2008, this had risen to around 27°C.
ASHRAE’s 2011 guidelines created a range of 
different approaches depending on type of datacentre and acceptable equipment failure rates,but moved the upper acceptable temperature ashigh as 45°C for less controlled environments,with more controlled data centre environmentsbeing able to be run at 35°C.At these temperatures, the amount of airmechanically cooled through the use of computerroom air conditioning (CRAC) units is massivelyreduced. In many cases, the need for CRAC unitsis completely obviated, and free air cooling can beused instead.The cost of CRAC units should not beunderestimated. A measure of the overall energyeffectiveness of a data centre is power utilisationeffectiveness (PUE). This is a number derived bytaking the total energy used by a data centre anddividing it by the amount of energy used for
enabling a “useful” workload –
that is, the energythat is provided to the IT equipment within thedata centre. For many existing data centres, thePUE will be between 2 and 2.5
for every Watt of energy provided to the IT equipment, between 1and 1.5 Watts of energy is used in peripheralequipment
on the whole, lighting,uninterruptable power supplies (UPSs) andcooling. Lighting is a small part of this, and a
modern data centre should be run in a “lights out” 
status anyway. A modern UPS should be greaterthan 95% energy efficient (many are now 98%+energy efficient), leaving the cooling system asthe biggest energy drain for calculating PUE. If the CRAC units can be decommissioned andreplaced with free air cooling, or with lowerenergy systems such as adiabatic cooling, the
data centre’s PUE will improve dramatically –
andthe energy requirements for the data centreoverall will fall.For example, if an existing facility has a PUE of 2.5 and through the use of advanced coolingdesign it can drop to 1.5, 40% of the total energyused by the data centre can be saved.Although the green data centre is probably not at
the top of anyone’s priority list at the moment,
energy optimisation probably is. Through a fewrelatively simple steps such as those above, a stepchange in data centre energy usage can begained. Through saving tens of percentage pointson the data centre energy cost, the business willgain. Further, not only will it be able to show thissaving directly against the bottom line, but it willalso be able to use the saving to put the tick-markin the green and sustainable boxes in its corporateresponsibility statement (CSR).
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