The Sustainable Data Centre

When it comes to integrating sustainable business practices into your organisation, creating a greener and more energy efficient data centre is one of the most significant actions you can take.

Category: Insights

13th July 2022

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The Sustainable Data Centre

Why it pays to go greener – saving energy, money, and the planet

Reducing environmental impact is a hot topic for UK businesses and the pursuit of a sustainability agenda is fast becoming a commercial necessity, thanks to today’s rapidly rising energy costs.

When it comes to integrating sustainable business practices into your organisation, creating a greener and more energy efficient data centre is one of the most significant actions you can take.

Anyone who manages and maintains a data centre knows it can be the organisation’s biggest consumer of energy. Alongside issues around hardware utilisation, which is primarily because of all the energy that is used to drive electrical air conditioning systems that ensure server racks and other equipment do not overheat.

The good news is there are a number of practical steps and approaches that can be deployed to help reduce energy consumption in the data centre and, in turn, curb emissions.

Making your data centre more sustainable

According to a survey by the Uptime Institute, 30% of all global data centre servers are either underutilised or completely idle. Locating and removing or correcting inefficient servers will go a long way to helping you reduce data centre costs and energy usage.

Similarly, it is worth evaluating when test and other non-production servers are used to see if these could be powered off at night or over weekends to save further valuable energy and costs.

Another way to achieve an energy-efficient data centre is to re-evaluate the optimal data centre temperature. In the past data centres had to be kept cool to enable hardware to function correctly. However, today’s modern servers are capable of performing well in temperatures up to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Raising the ambient temperature in the data centre by just a few degrees will create an immediate drop in power usage from the cooling system without any undue effect on server performance.

To minimise risk, utilising temperature, and humidity sensors to monitor your data centre environment will help proactively identify problems or automate cooling based on IT loads. This data can then be analysed to see if temperatures could be safely increased yet further.

Consider liquid cooling

It is a shocking fact that less than half of the total energy your data centre is consuming is being used to power hardware.

Walk into any modern data centre and your ears will immediately be assaulted by a cacophony of chillers and fans all whirring to keep ambient temperatures as cool as possible. Less visible to the naked eye are all the other fans that are internal to compute, network and storage systems that are also working hard to keep their many component parts even cooler.

While these internal air-cooling mechanisms may predominate today, the advent of dense integrated circuitry means that there has recently been a resurgence of interest in liquid cooling methods for CPUs.

In a recent blog Liquid Cooling for Computers is Cool Again – Here are the Reasons Why, Cisco describe the reasons for renewed focus and interest in non-air-cooling technologies are due to the rapid growth of computing performance metrics such as chip/socket density, memory and storage capacity, and associated power requirements. Secondly, the trend toward disaggregation of computing components (specifically memory), which will likely lead to the development of more processing-intensive computing systems. In turn, these next-gen systems will require more heat dissipation that traditional fans and airflow may not be properly able to handle.

Previously the preserve of high-performance computing and other more specialised systems, liquid cooling works similarly to a car’s radiator by using liquid to dissipate heat. Although the pumps used for liquid cooling consume some power, liquid cooling units help CPUs run cooler, which in turn helps reduce the total overall energy required to cool the data centre.

Widely regarded as being more effective than air-based cooling methods and promising to be much more sustainable because it uses less energy, there is currently buzz in the computing and data centre world about how liquid cooling techniques and technologies are set to revolutionise how data centres are designed and populated.

Delivering up to 60% better cooling versus comparable air-cooling using a 2RU-rack chassis, today’s liquid cooling technologies are already poised to deliver more energy efficient and environmentally friendly servers and data centres.

Cisco believe this will have a positive impact for the UCS products

These developments are nothing but good news for hardware designers including those at CIsco working on the Cisco UCS. “When we launched the X-Series, we touted this as a system built for the next decade of computing design and operations. This includes the ability to integrate new and emerging technology including better cooling systems, specifically liquid cooling”

Dattatri Mattur, Sr. Director Engineering at Cisco for Cloud and Compute Engineering added, ‘While these projects are experimental for now, I do foresee them becoming mainstream soon. As with most things involving computing technology, there will be a measured, phased evolution in terms of innovation and adoption. Specifically, I expect data center chillers to remain in place for a while even as rack based CDUs are installed. Over time, CDUs themselves will evolve and expand as centralized units at the data center level (like the evolution of power distribution systems) that will revolutionize how data centers are designed and populated. Eventually, data center operators will consider even more extreme liquid cooling methods including full system immersion’.

“The downstream and ancillary effects can be equally compelling. Not only will we be able to build more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly servers and data centers, but we will also enable the next-generation of computing solutions. This includes converged infrastructure and hyper-converged infrastructure that can run more workloads and support more apps using less energy and footprint possible today”.

Working smarter together

Here at Camworth we have been helping our data centre customers design more energy efficient data centres that help them to achieve wider their sustainability goals. If you would like us to help you explore ways to decrease energy usage in your data centre and optimise your existing IT infrastructure’s design, why not get in touch.

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