Simple steps to reduce power costs in the data center

Powering and cooling a data center takes up a lot of most companies’ operating budgets. The good news: There are a few steps IT can take to lower those costs. 

While there are some sophisticated techniques some organizations are using when building new, green data centers, companies with existing facilities and without the budget for huge renovations can look at green IT, too.

Companies can dramatically reduce power consumption in their data data centers with a few low-cost methods that can be applied quickly, according to a report from the IFMA Foundation.

The group recommends organizations:

1. Accurately monitor power consumption

Many businesses don’t have separate information about how much energy they use in the  data center, since it’s often lumped in with their facilities as a whole. However, if power usage isn’t monitored, it can’t be managed.

The IFMA Foundation recommends businesses consider using dynamic monitoring — i.e., continuously monitoring power usage rather than taking an average over a period of time. That can help discover incidents that cause spikes in usage so that problems can be fixed.

2. Back off on data center cooling

One small action that can have a big impact: Let server rooms get a little warmer. Many companies keep their data centers cooled to around 70 degrees — however, last year Intel released a statement saying that customers could raise temperatures quite a bit without damaging servers.

Also, in a 2010 presentation, Google’s “green energy czar,” Bill Weihl, said his company was keeping its server rooms at 80 degrees. And in 2011, Facebook announced a new data center in North Carolina would be kept at 85 degrees.

One warning: Talk with vendors to check the temperatures at which equipment is certified to operate safely — and whether or not raising the temperature could void warranties.

3. Use scalable resources

One of the benefits of cloud computing is that companies can scale their capacity based on need, rather than building their own in-house systems with room to grow. That way, the organization isn’t spending money to power idling servers because they might be needed at some point. However, even with an in-house data center, companies can achieve some level of scalability, the IFMA Foundation says.

The group recommends companies develop “modular” data centers, in which the area is divided into separate zones whose power can be managed independently. That way, the company can scale up or down as needed, without having the entire data center powered on constantly.

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