Environmental sustainability is not a sweet spot for most data centres. Exponentially growing data volume and increasing performance requirements only exacerbate the situation. Efforts to improve energy usage efficiency are usually focused on facility components, such as UPS systems, but there is a better way to reduce power consumption of white space equipment without sacrificing operational security or violating performance service level agreements.
Data centre planners today are met with a paradox in fulfilling their duties. Not only do they need to respect and meet the business continuity requirements for uptime and availability – which is typically answered by risk mitigation and capacity oversizing – but also more and more business efficiency requirements have recently been introduced to further blur the picture. The request for 99.999% uptime is best implemented by using means of redundancy around the physical infrastructure.
The business might also be asking for a 20% reduction in power usage for the data centre, to minimise costs or emphasise a business-wide environmental awareness. The later obviously have to be achieved without impacting the required uptime, ruling out the ability to cut down on overhead introduced by layers of redundancy.
While the first initiative for emphasising the over-use of energy in IT environments were focused on desktop computers and printers (through the ENERGY STAR initiative launched by the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] and the Department of Energy in the US in 1992), the primary focus today is on the data centres themselves.
Mostly due to the relatively high increase in power usage over the years, the data centre industry has earned a reputation for wasting an unforgivable amount of energy, which has reached the ears of proactive business executives committed to reduction of carbon footprint and business sustainability.
Today many different energy efficient initiatives exist. Some launched on a volunteer basis and others dictated by government regulations, but all sharing while the vision of eliminating unnecessary waste in and around data centres. However each and every initiative taken towards green IT compliance needs to be balanced with the businesses requirement for availability and performance.
Requirements for Green IT Compliance
The journey towards green IT starts with a changed mindset. While the data centre industry for decades was used to over-provisioning Power and Cooling installations to build a resilient infrastructure, this type of approach is no longer suitable to meet tomorrow's agenda for green IT. More focus will need to be placed on right-sizing the infrastructure to meet the current and near-future requirements of the IT installation.
One of the biggest challenges in achieving this is accommodating the relatively huge variation in potential power usage that a modern data centre can experience.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.