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5 Steps to Improving Data Center Performance & Energy Efficiency

5 Steps to Improving Data Center Performance & Energy Efficiency

By Sam Prudhomme, Vice President of Sales & Marketing

Recently, I was interviewed by a Computer Weekly journalist, Fleur Doidge, who was writing an article focusing on the quick wins when it comes to improving systems performance in the data center. Inspired by our discussion, I’ve come up with Subzero’s top 5 ways to boost data center utilization.

The data center industry, quite rightly, has an ongoing, major focus on how it can improve both the performance and energy efficiency of its facilities. That’s partly down to the perception that our industry are major consumers of energy and contribute a high volume of carbon emissions each year.

According to an article published in Science Magazine, data centers account for around 1% of global energy use. It’s clear that we need to improve our environmental performance and to ensure we never forget we’re part of the sustainability solution, but we should also remember that data center performance and energy efficiency improvements make great business sense.

While there are many, many issues to consider as part of a comprehensive, long-term strategy to both improve data center performance as well as to achieve carbon neutral status, this article focuses on the ‘low hanging fruit’ – relatively simple actions, which will have an immediate positive impact on your facility, and with an ROI measured in months rather than years.

Step 1 – As Easy as (free) CFD

Those of you who know Subzero Engineering well will not be surprised that Step 1 involves a Environmental Impact Evaluation (CFD) of your data center. We believe it all starts with the data and offer this service for free. It is a simple, efficient, and super-fast way of discovering just how your data center is performing right now – where the power is, where the heat is, and isn’t, hence where the cold air does or doesn’t need to be.

Step 2 – Using the Data

Once the Environmental Impact Evaluation (CFD) has been carried out, you’ll be armed with a large quantity of data about how your data center is performing. It’s highly likely that you’ll be presented with some really quick wins. For example, you’ll discover where the hotspots (points of efficiency leakage) are; and part of the solution may be something as simple as installing any necessary blanking panels.

Then again, the CFD data may highlight that Row 5 in Rack 6 is running 15 degrees hotter than anywhere else in the data center. You’ll be able to decide whether you need to move this stack to a better location where more cooling is available, or maybe you just need to open up the grate to optimize or increase the airflow.

Step 3 – The 3 ms: Measuring, monitoring & Modulation

A data center is a live environment. So, although the CFD analysis can identify and help to resolve what we might call any ‘permanent’ power and cooling issues, it’s essential that you monitor and measure the performance of the power and cooling plant in real-time. This is because data center variables such as the IT load and operating temperatures are in constant flux. With the right system you are able to modulate the airflow accordingly. For example, if the cooling needs to react to the load inside each rack and cabinet, as well as respond to the impact of, say, an extremely hot outside temperature.

Rather than blast a load of cold air into the data center and ‘hope’ that it keeps the IT hardware within operating tolerances, with the right monitoring solution, you can be confident that you can modulate the cold air as required right down to the rack level. This ensures that the cooling usage is as effective and energy efficient as possible.

Step 4 – Contain Your Excitement

How would you like to reduce your PUE by 0.4? Or to achieve a 29% reduction in data center energy consumption? Well, these are the average savings we achieve for our customers when they deploy one of our containment solutions.

The initial Environmental Impact Evaluation (CFD) we carry out also proves how this can be achieved – it compares and contrasts hot vs cold aisle containment and containment vs no containment. Furthermore, a containment solution ensures that Steps 1-3 really do achieve the maximum performance and energy efficiency improvements within the data center.

Without containment, you’ll still have hotspots – separating hot and cold air will be hit and miss and far from being optimized.

With containment, you can bring down the power consumption to cooling ratio close to a 1:1 match in KW consumed – that’s how the energy consumption/utility bill reduction is achieved.

As for the PUE reduction? Well, that’s achieved by smarter, more efficient use of an optimized combination of chilled water and the air conditioning fans. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that containment can reduce fan energy consumption by up to 25% and deliver 20% savings at the cold water chiller.1

One final containment benefit – we supplied a containment solution to a colo customer and by separating the hot and cold air in their facility, we helped them to not only eliminate hotspots, but also to increase rack density by an average of 14%.

Step 5 – Turn the Lights out

This breadth of knowledge brings me to my final data center performance and energy efficiency improvement: turn out the lights. By that, I actually mean remove anything incandescent and go with an LED retrofit kit within your existing tray system. And then automate the lighting system.

It may be a while before a true lights out data center becomes the norm, if ever, but that’s no excuse not to ensure that your lighting system is as energy efficient as possible. By using LEDs and only using the lights when needed you’ll improve your energy efficiency as well as your bank balance.

While Subzero Engineering’s major focus is data center consultancy, using CFD analysis and containment solutions, to help drive performance and efficiency improvements we can also help owners/operators with their critical power infrastructure, DCIM and other solutions as required.

Download the 5 Steps to Improving Data Center Performance & Energy Efficiency pdf here.

 

References

1Recalibrating global data center energy-use estimates – Science Magazine 2018

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Data Center Sustainability – Why it’s all about the data

Data Center Sustainability – Why it’s all about the data

Andy Connor – Channel Director, EMEA, Subzero Engineering

In 2020, the Uptime Institute’s, Andy Lawrence stated, “The average power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratio for a data center is 1.58, only marginally better than 7 years ago.”

This revelation may come as a welcome shock, and while it might be overstating the situation to characterise data center energy usage as the Internets ‘dirty secret’, there’s little doubt that the reality of the sectors carbon impact has been masked by the many headlines which focus solely on its sustainability successes.

Colt Data Centre Services, for example, recently announced that its operations across Europe are now fully powered by 100% renewable energy, while many members of the U.S. hyperscale community are publicly revealing their latest renewable energy projects and initiatives. Carbon offsetting is another idea quickly embraced by end-users, vendors and operators of all shapes and sizes, and while all of these activities, in part, contribute to data center sustainability improvements, they do not directly address the issue of data center power consumption.

Data Center Power Usage
Today there are many estimates as to the amount of power that data centers across the globe consume on an annual basis. Energy Innovation estimates that, in 2018, data centers likely consumed 205 terrawatt-hours (TWh), which equates to 1% of total global electricity. However, the authors of a paper published in ‘Global Energy Interconnection’ in June 2020 state that ‘data centers will become the world’s largest users of energy consumption, with the ratio rising from 3% in 2017 to 4.5% in 2025’.

The data differs again in the January 2020 Uptime Institute Journal, which reports EU data center energy consumption figures of 130 TWh in 2017, alongside Greenpeace’s 2018 Chinese data center figure of 160 TWh, which makes for a combined total of 290 TWh for China and Europe alone!

The fact is that as data center capacity increases, so will energy usage. And while we may not agree on the exact numbers, few would argue about the direction of travel. So what can we do to change the trajectory, and how can we begin to pinpoint consistency within sustainable strategies?

A Change In Demand
Demands for digital transformation are a key factor behind data center energy consumption, but rather than overload you with a tsunami of data, I would urge you to take a short time out to consider just how essential information technology has become to almost every factor of everyday life.

Take a typical workday, how do you communicate with colleagues, what does your role entail? Then think about your plans for the weekend (lockdown not withstanding), have you thought about the films you’ll watch, the apps you might use, or your personal connection to a data center?

Now try and imagine a future that also includes artificial intelligence (AI), augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR), what impacts will this digital consumption have on the data center industry, and what does it mean for sustainability?

Those are big questions, many of which people outside the sector won’t have considered, but the answer may lie within a recent data center industry initiative to show us the way forward. Recently 25 companies and 17 associations across Europe joined together to sign the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, with the objective of making data centers climate neutral by 2030.

There’s clearly a growing momentum behind sustainability, but the industry needs to move beyond the environmental easy wins of the past few years and to start to address the factors that really address efficiency and PUE ratings – those which have hardly changed in seven years.

There’s also the question of is PUE truly enough to measure our carbon impact, so with this in mind, where can we begin?

Beginning With The Data
Back in 2005, Subzero Engineering started life as a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) consultancy. At the time, a large percentage of the industry were using raised floors and experiencing issues with leakages. Yet, with a simple to use and accurate software solution we were able to show customers how they could analyse their data center infrastructure and take steps to both improve efficiency and reduce their environmental impact.

Fast-forward sixteen years and that approach has stayed with us. Today we’re an engineering-led solutions provider that helps world-leading businesses achieve a lower carbon footprint, greater efficiency, reduced operating costs and exceptional performance – and it all starts with the data.

For example, by showing customers the hot and cold air influences within their data center and helping them to analyse, optimise and retrofit their facilities, we believe we can help them find the perfect balance between sustainability and performance.

The proof is in the outcomes and today we keep a live record of the annual energy savings we’ve achieved for our customers. To-date they include:

  • Total savings: $332M
  • Total kW savings: 356kW
  • Total kWh savings: 3BN kWh
  • H2O savings (gallons): 1.5BN
  • CO2 reductions (tons): +3M

However, while these data points show some of the gains that can be made by focusing on sustainability, two questions remain; how do organizations become more energy conscious, and what are the next steps they can take to become more sustainable?

Defining Next Steps
At Subzero Engineering we believe that beginning with a data-driven CFD report is the first step, and offers data center operators insight into how to drive efficiencies across all areas of their facility. This is not limited to airflow; it includes the Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), Computer Room Air Conditioners (CRAC), racks, IT and cooling fan speeds.

A CFD analysis also shows them how they can achieve a higher rack density, more computing power and help increase the operating temperature to gain both a higher performing and more streamlined, efficient data center.

This information is invaluable, offering both a starting point and a medium for creating a strategy that balances performance and efficiency. It also offers a means of truly understanding what kind of return on investment (ROI) they can expect from improving sustainability, especially in terms of reductions in energy and water usage, and lower carbon emissions.

Looking Forward
Today energy efficiency and sustainability objectives have become key drivers for owners and operators. Subzero has always been a sustainability-engineering organization; it just so happens that in recent years ‘sustainability’ has become a key talking point for the industry.

Coming back to the data, a paper authored by Anders S.G. Andrae once presented three possible scenarios for data center electricity usage (TWh) by 2030. The best-case figure is 1,137; the expected figure is 2,967; and the worst case is 7,933. As an industry we cannot let the latter become a reality.

In the absence of the grown-up sustainability conversation that needs to happen soon, where more businesses and consumers become fully aware of the environmental consequences of their digital footprint, I believe more and more pressure will force our industry to perform better.

Sustainability, however, begins with data-driven action, and a free CFD analysis is a perfect place to start.

To learn more about modernizing or driving data center sustainability with the help of Subzero Engineering, connect with a local technical expert here.

This blog was first published on Intelligent CIO Europe in March 2021. To read the original online, click here.

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Containment Helps Data Centers Go Green

Containment Helps Data Centers Go Green

A Subzero White Paper by Gordon Johnson

Data centers are a huge part of today’s economy, with both businesses and people connected 24/7. However, along with this usage comes a huge drain on our energy resources. Recent studies show that energy consumed by data centers in the U.S. alone has doubled over the last five years. With the growth of cloud computing and High Performance Computing (HPC) and the energy required to operate them, this trend is not disappearing anytime soon. Fortunately, many realize that this high level of energy consumption cannot continue indefinitely, and the push for greener and more environmentally friendly data centers is being taken seriously.

What can data center and facility managers do to stop this runaway train? While there are several options to get greener and thus lower the overall cost to operate a data center, this paper specifically focuses on containment. Why? Containment is the fastest, easiest, and most cost effective strategy to going green while simultaneously lowering operating costs without adding additional CapEx to the data center. In addition, containment makes other options either possible or economically feasible. This paper will show why this is true, while discussing the following topics:

  • Why Being Green Matters
  • Containment is the Smallest Action with the Greatest Outcome
  • Containment = High Efficiency = Green Data Center
  • Containment’s Role in HPC
  • Efficiency: Full Containment Versus Partial Containment
  • Efficiency: Cold Aisle Containment Versus Hot Aisle Containment
  • CFD Predicts Energy Savings & Environmental Footprint

Read the full white paper.

 

About the Author
Gordon Johnson is the Senior CFD Engineer at Subzero Engineering, and is responsible for planning and managing all CFD related jobs in the U.S. and worldwide. He has over 25 years of experience in the data center industry which includes data center energy efficiency assessments, CFD modeling, and disaster recovery. He is a certified U.S. Department of Energy Data Center Energy Practitioner (DCEP), a certified Data Centre Design Professional (CDCDP), and holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology. Gordon also brings his knowledge and ability to teach the fundamentals of data center energy efficiency to numerous public speaking events annually.

ContainmentData Center ContainmentEnergy EfficiencyPUEroi
Data Center Containment 101

Data Center Containment 101

A Subzero White Paper by Gordon Johnson

Regardless of if we’re entering a data center for the first time or have been doing so for
years, most data centers have something in common. As you walk through rows of racks,
you’ll alternate between cold and hot aisles. You’ll hear expressions like “CRACs”, “PUE”,
“White Space”, “Cold Aisle Containment”, “Hot Aisle Containment”, and many more. The
purpose of this White Paper is to assist those new to the data center and those assigned
with making key decisions to get the most out of existing “legacy” and newly designed data
centers.

Since energy efficiency and data reliability are key goals for anyone managing or associated
with data centers, how can we achieve both in the shortest amount of time while getting
the quickest ROI (Return of Investment)? When is it more appropriate to use one type of
containment instead of another type? Which saves more money? This paper will answer
these and other questions.

Read the full white paper.

About the Author
Gordon Johnson is the Senior CFD Engineer at Subzero Engineering, and is responsible
for planning and managing all CFD related jobs in the U.S. and worldwide. He has over
25 years of experience in the data center industry which includes data center energy
efficiency assessments, CFD modeling, and disaster recovery. He is a certified U.S.
Department of Energy Data Center Energy Practitioner (DCEP), a certified Data Centre
Design Professional (CDCDP), and holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering
from New Jersey Institute of Technology. Gordon also brings his knowledge and ability
to teach the fundamentals of data center energy efficiency to numerous public speaking
events annually.

ContainmentData Center ContainmentEnergy EfficiencyPUEroi
Containment’s Role in Energy Efficiency and Rapid ROI

Containment’s Role in Energy Efficiency and Rapid ROI

A Subzero White Paper by Gordon Johnson

Everyone today is interested in saving money, and that’s especially true in data centers. Between the cost of electricity and the increasing trend for higher power densities per rack (20 kW and above is no longer uncommon), the desire to be energy efficient and to reduce cost on the annual utility bill is a major concern throughout the data center industry.

So what can be done to save energy and thus save money? How can we lower our PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) while increasing energy efficiency without sacrificing reliability? What technology will deliver a rapid ROI, often between 6 and 18 months? Containment is the answer.

How does containment provide energy savings for data centers? Is there a way to estimate the annual savings and PUE for containment installations? This White Paper will provide an answer to these questions.

Read the full white paper.

 

About the Author
Gordon Johnson is the Senior CFD Engineer at Subzero Engineering, and is responsible for planning and managing all CFD related jobs in the U.S. and worldwide. He has over 25 years of experience in the data center industry which includes data center energy efficiency assessments, CFD modeling, and disaster recovery. He is a certified U.S. Department of Energy Data Center Energy Practitioner (DCEP), a certified Data Centre Design Professional (CDCDP), and holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology. Gordon also brings his knowledge and ability to teach the fundamentals of data center energy efficiency to numerous public speaking events annually.

ContainmentData Center ContainmentEnergy EfficiencyPUEroi
Take Some of the Guesswork out of Data Center Efficiency

Take Some of the Guesswork out of Data Center Efficiency

Subzero understands how complicated it can be when trying to figure out how to save energy and money in your data center and we are here to help make it easier. Our Senior CFD Manager, Gordon Johnson, has created an easy-to-use calculator suite that can help you figure out some of those complicated scenarios and point you in the right direction.

The Subzero Calculator Suite consists of 6 calculators and can be downloaded in both US units and SI units.

1. ROI Calculator
Calculate the annual cost of operating your data center and estimate the yearly savings after installing containment and increasing the supply temperature from the CRACs. You can also estimate new PUE after containment and the ROI payback of a containment project based on the total cost.

2. VFD Calculator
Lowering the fan speeds on CRACs, especially after installing containment, saves energy and money. This calculator allows you to enter before and after fan speed, CRAC CFM, and fan motor power, and via the Fan Affinity Law provides the new fan motor power and the annual $ savings based on the new fan speed.

3. CRAC Annual Cost Calculator
Determine the total annual cost of running a CRAC unit by entering a few details.

4. CRAC Cooling Calculator
Determine the true kW of cooling from any CRAC or cooling unit based on airflow (CFM) and the Delta T (return air temperature – supply air temperature) across the CRAC.

5. Airflow CFM Calculator
Determine airflow in CFM needed to cool a rack based on the rack’s kW and the Delta T (temperature rise of air through the servers). Determine if you meet your design cooling capacity of supply airflow from the CRACs versus demand airflow from the IT equipment.

6. UPS kW Calculator
Determine the UPS Heat Load (kW) based on user inputs of UPS power rating, UPS % load, and UPS % efficiency.

Download the Calculator Suite

 

Need more help?
Let one of our DCEP, CDCDP Certified Engineers help your data center reach its full potential.

SERVICES WE OFFER
Computational Fluid Dynamics – Subzero Engineering offers Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) services from accredited CDCDP, DCEP professionals, thus providing a comprehensive approach to modeling the airflow, temperature, and creating an accurate energy profile of a data center.

Through state-of-the-art software, we construct a 3D layout of your data center. This layout models the hot and cold airflow within your facility, as well as the impact of load distribution. This allows Subzero’s engineering team to develop a baseline from which improvements can be noted and potential savings calculated. The engineers that perform the CFD services for Subzero have CDCDP (Certified Data Center Design Professional) and DCEP (Data Center Energy Practitioner) accreditation.

Energy Assessments – With the ever-increasing rise in data center energy consumption, all in the industry as well as the United States Department of Energy (DOE) have been looking at ways, strategies and programs to reduce this consumption.

Subzero Engineering has sent a team through the DCEP training and has been helping customers realize their potential savings. Utilizing the DOE toolset DC Profiler, Utilizing the DOE toolset DC Profiler, Subzero’s DCEP Certified Engineers can help you with many important items.

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Seeing is Believing

Seeing is Believing

Subzero Data Center cold and/or hot aisle containment is the best way to lower intake temperature to IT equipment.

What the Evidence Shows in Real Time

The IBM data center efficiency group in New York wanted the same proof. Gerry Weber an engineering consultant at IBM along with other monitoring technicians recorded a time-lapse video that shows the containment install along side of the temperature changes.

In the video, you can see the temperature dropped nearly 14 degrees in a 5 hour period! What the video does not display is that the temperature across the face of the IT intake did not vary more than one degree.

Subzero Engineering has similar data from numerous data centers with an average of a 10 degree in supply temperature. At the same time the intake Relative Humidity Levels were increased by over 20%.

What does this mean for data center operators?

  1. Consistent supply temperatures
  2. Increase use of rack space due to consistent supply temperatures at the top of the rack.
  3. Predictable supply temperatures make it easy to anticipate cooling solutions when an increase of thermal load or kW is introduced to the space.
  4. Maximize cooling efficiency by adopting ASHRAE increase in temperature.
  5. Convert cooling energy to IT equipment.
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