The role of data centres as the engine room behind mission and IT critical operations means that a robust energy efficiency strategy is a real prerequisite. Data centres need to deliver quantifiable cost savings by improving efficiency to justify their share of internal resource. As a data centre’s cooling operations can consume up to 50% of the total energy usage, optimising its performance can significantly impact the bottom line.
David Bradley, energy efficiency sales manager with integrated power specialist Socomec, explains: “Most facilities are spending too much money to power too many cooling units to deliver too much cooling. By monitoring a facility in real time, less cooling is required – because you only need enough to address your current IT load.
“Real-time information enables facility managers and capacity planning teams to work together to more quickly identify where equipment or racks can be shifted to improve cooling capacity. Furthermore, it is possible to distinguish between hot spots caused by airflow issues and those that indicate that a facility is running at maximum capacity.”
As a result, additional IT load can frequently be added without the need for more cooling resources. Bradley continues: “Once you see how much cooling your current IT load requires, your cooling capacity team can determine how much additional IT load you can safely add to your existing facility.”
The process of developing more efficient data centres starts with developing a deep understanding about the way that they use resources – and the way that those resources are monitored and managed. By accurately measuring and centrally monitoring energy consumption it is possible to improve efficiency across the entire estate.
One such system designed to meet these demands is Socomec’s Diris Digiware, enabling data centre managers to make fully informed decisions. Diris Digiware is a fully digital, multi-circuit plug and play measurement concept, with a common display for multi-circuit systems. Compact and quick to install, it provides accurate and effective metering, measurement and monitoring of electrical energy quality. Infinitely scalable, it is capable of monitoring thousands of connection points. The system offers an accuracy of class 0.5 to IEC61557-12 from 2% to 120% of the current sensor primary rating.
In order to address the most important industry challenges today, particularly in terms of efficiency and availability, and optimising the cooling operation, the latest product developments require a specialised and inter-disciplinary approach to provide high performance, reliable and cost-effective power solutions that are flexible enough to meet the rapidly changing demands of data centres.
Monitoring is key in this process; by delivering the most effective cooling solutions exactly when and where they are needed most, energy usage and the associated costs can be reduced. The majority of energy savings come from shutting off redundant cooling resources and reducing variable fan speeds. Additional savings come from raising average facility temperatures above their previous levels, while still maintaining them safely within ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning) guidelines.
Bradley comments: “With ASHRAE TC9.9 recommending hot aisle temperatures as high as 45°C in certain circumstances, we look to monitor at the three-phase PDU where it is cooler and not in the rack. The reason for this is that LCDs in the rack-mounted PDUs could dry up, electronics/communications could fail and access to the rack for maintenance may become challenging or unsafe.
“All facilities have dynamic environments, making it difficult to manage thermal airflow. The challenge is to match the cooling delivered to a facility with the heat generated by the current IT load – all of which needs to be monitored.
“By retrofitting Socomec’s Digiware within any cooling system, it is now possible to obtain the detailed level of real-time data necessary to effectively manage performance.”
Maximising cost savings
Leading hosting and managed service provider Six Degrees Group specialises in delivering application performance management, monitoring, reporting and security, deployed on hybrid public/private Cloud platforms.
Trusted with high-profile mission critical technology around the world, everything Six Degrees Group does is underpinned by its own data centres, data network and voice switching infrastructure.
Timothy Arnold, colo technology director at Six Degrees Group, identified Socomec’s Digiware range for a number of critical applications – including the B30, a three-phase, neutral voltage and current wireless power monitoring device, with analogue and digital I/O in one module.
Arnold explains: “We increasingly need to better understand the specific power utilisation within our facilities. Although we have historically been able to determine the power utilisation for an entire building, we have not been able to monitor the power utilisation across unique data halls and different pump sets within that building. Optimising chiller performance and energy consumption has not previously been possible.
“By retrofitting the Digiware B-30 within one of three data halls – each with two pump sets – we have been able to monitor and measure the power usage for that specific data hall, in turn delivering a far more advanced understanding of energy efficiency.
“Now, when making adjustments, we can confirm, conclusively, that they have been effective, enabling us to make more informed decisions in the longer term. Furthermore, as well as determining the energy usage for a specific hall, we can even drill down to individual pump set level, identifying whether one is running harder than the other, for example.
“As a standalone module installed directly into the pumpset panel, Digiware was easy to integrate. Rather than needing to have multiple controls and a larger system, the Digiware B-30 can be deployed in an isolated environment and into the end unit, instead of deploying full modules. The initial trial has been so successful that we are now rolling the solution out across our other two data halls.”
It has been found that this granular level of monitoring is particularly beneficial for colocation facilities whose environments are continually evolving. Conversely, systems that are using lower levels of power can be consolidated resulting in improved energy efficiency resulting by association in lower operating costs for either the provider or end user.
It is vital to take control of all aspects of system design and operation in order to guarantee uptime and availability both in the near and longer term – but also to better understand energy usage and opportunities for optimisation.
Modular Digiware solutions (including the I-30 and U-30) have also been deployed by Six Degrees Group to monitor a larger number of circuits in one location.
Arnold comments: “Previously, with in-rack PDU monitoring, we experienced a number of issues as legacy equipment was operating at higher temperatures while not being designed specifically for this purpose.
“Rather than turn them off, we were able to retrofit Digiware live – without downtime – ensuring that our customers were not affected in any way. In this instance, the modularity of the Digiware solution was a significant benefit. Instead of having to deploy it for all racks across all customers, and because Digiware is mounted in the three-phase PDU rather than the rack, we have been able to scale-up over time, therefore reducing capital cost.
“Furthermore, the installation was rapid; it actually took longer to unbox the equipment than it did to install it.”
A successful operation and attractive ROI ultimately depend upon the optimised performance and flexibility of the system architecture.
Arnold continues: “We are also testing Digiware in other scenarios – in determining UPS efficiencies, for example. I am currently using Digiware as a power logger – a really cost effective solution.
“Across all of these applications, we are now working with accurate and reliable data which means that we can make more informed decisions on how to improve our facilities, particularly in terms of energy efficiency and meeting the terms of the climate change agreement. We can deploy our capital expenditure more effectively as we better understand how energy is being used and there is zero downtime for monitoring.”
Are you prepared?
The changing power demands placed upon hard-working data centres are evolving continuously. We capture and use more data now than ever before and the trend in terms of the Internet of Things means that this usage is forecast to continue at almost unimaginable rates.
Those responsible for managing the buildings and facilities that house big data have been plunged into the corporate spotlight; the optimisation of critical power availability and the protection of vital assets requires a careful balancing act between these changing power demands and the provision of greater efficiencies, and cost savings