Energy efficiency and the digital landscape


    Michael Kirkland, managing director of software development and engineering business Forest Rock, discusses the opportunities integrated software management platforms can bring to data centres to maximise uptime, minimise energy costs and benefit from the new business opportunities offered by the Capacity Market…

    Where would we be these days without data centres? They house the infrastructure behind of all our business data systems and are the backbone of the internet, and mobile applications. Nevertheless, the data centre is greedy, it is hungry for more energy to manage the IT infrastructure, to power the networked computers it houses 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and to maintain the cooling systems which allow them to keep running. 

    Because of this, tightly controlled environmental conditions are crucial not only to ensure the uptime of the equipment within the data centre but also to keep control of energy costs.

    The data centre market is expanding rapidly; the imminent arrival of 5G will only increase this rate of expansion. The growth in IoT deployment, digital transformation and big data will mean more data must be stored and processed. The associated energy demand brings with it both environmental and cost considerations.

    Energy costs money and, on 1 April, we saw a 45% increase in the Climate Change Levy (CCL) meaning an increase in non-commodity costs (charges on an energy bill that are not the electricity) from 0.583p/kWh to 0.847p/kWh – this was due to the abolition of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC). The CCL is an environmental tax on energy delivered to non-domestic users, it has been designed to incentivise energy efficiency and to reduce carbon emissions.

    In addition, energy costs are estimated to rise by 20% next year, meaning the time is now for data centre managers to maximise their energy efficiency and benefit from the many opportunities offered by the Capacity Market, and demand-side response (DSR) schemes.

    While it may be impossible to save energy by shutting down systems in data centres, energy efficiency improvements – and in some cases new revenue streams – can be sought through the way those systems operate. This is where the Digital Landscape software platform, with its integrated controls technology, comes to the fore to analyse data and to identify inefficiencies and opportunities within the data centre.

    The analytics technology can monitor energy and operational data to identify potential savings and recognise the emergence of faults in critical systems before they occur, helping to protect the critical infrastructure of the data centre.

    After the computing power, the largest part of a data centre’s energy consumption is in its ventilation and cooling equipment. Operators need to understand and monitor these systems to ensure they can effectively reduce operating costs and optimise power usage effectiveness (PUE).

    Data centres also need to conform to the ISO14001 and ISO50001 standards. Energy management forms part of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive and ISO14001 can help exempt organisations from other environmental legislation. Monitoring and managing environmental conditions and maximising energy efficiency is a key requirement of these ISO standards.

    Forest Rock provides data centre operators with Digital Landscape software management platforms to enable them to remotely monitor, manage data centre systems and alert on conditions outside of ideal parameters. The solutions provide real-time monitoring of environmental conditions against Service Level Agreements (SLAs) which could be common across a data centre or can be specific to a particular data hall.

    These systems alert operators before SLA conditions have been breached using emails or mobile push-notifications, with the ability to escalate alerts up the management chain if they are not resolved within the desired timeframe.

    The company has developed sophisticated algorithms to manage repeated nuisance alerts from faulty sensors or devices. These algorithms have the intelligence to suppress these nuisance events and can differentiate important root cause conditions, from potentially hundreds of consequential conditions which may be of little interest.

    Automated monthly reports of environmental conditions, branch energy consumption, or PUE are generated and emailed to the appropriate person without any human intervention.

    The integrated software platforms can both monitor and control all of the electrical and mechanical systems found in most data centres. This helps data centre operators to gain the financial benefits of schemes such as the Capacity Market and Frequency Response while ensuring the core business activities of the data centre are not compromised.

    Using the advanced analytical functions within the platform enables data centre operators to move to a more predictive maintenance regime, whereby failures are predicted before they occur, and maintenance can be undertaken more efficiently.



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