Data Centers In Transition: Controlling Power, Cooling Costs

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That difference can be minimized with a redesign, Leonard said. "We're now studying one of our building's airflow to see whether we can shut off up to 11 of the 56 cooling systems. Depending on the cost and the amount of power company rebates, and the final bill, our initial estimate is that the investment involved is justified by a three-year to five-year payback."

The other aspect of design is working with customers before they move into a data center, said Mike Duckett, president of CoreLink Data Centers, a Mount Prospect, Ill. owner and operator of five data centers.

When customers work closely with data center providers on layouts, it is much easier to be efficient, he said. "The more we understand a customer's plans, the easier it is for us over time to help guide them from space, cooling, and green perspectives as new technologies become available," he said.

With all the possible technologies, the key to designing a data center is to make sure flexibility is built in from the start, said Edward Henigin, CTO of Data Foundry, an Austin, Texas-based data center owner.

"You never know what customers will need," he said. "Retail shops to life-saving organizations to airlines, everyone is a little different. They may come in with IBM gear and no cabinet, or with HP gear in a non-HP cabinet, or use our cabinets. So we have to accommodate anything."

That "anything" might be one cabinet pulling 2kWh sitting next to one pulling 15kWh, requiring "chimneys" around the racks to move hot air directly into the ceiling air flow, Henigin said. "It's pretty neat when you don't know what's coming in the door next," he said.

On the equipment side, vendors are doing more to help data center owners and solution providers reduce power consumption.

APC by Schneider Electric is offering solution providers modular integrated power systems for the facilities and the equipment, making it possible for them to develop repeatable solutions, Fischer said.

The company is also providing tools to manage a data center's entire power consumption, along with tools to simulate conditions before and after proposed changes. "We help partners answer the 'what if' questions," he said.

Chris Loeffler, program manager at Eaton, said that several new power-saving technologies going into Eaton's own data centers are starting to become available to partners.

For instance, Eaton is now deploying 400/230-volt power, which is popular in Europe and Asia, because it is more efficient that the standard 480/208-volt power traditionally used in the U.S., Loeffler said. "The problem is, there's a lot of legacy equipment," he said. "If it's a greenfield installation, customers can deploy 400/230-volt. Cloud infrastructure providers are starting to deploy it."

Eaton is also increasing the intelligence of software to monitor power use from the generator to the cooling systems, providing the ability to adjust system performance when possible to reduce air conditioning loads, Loeffler said.

The company has also added the ability to meter actual power use down to the individual outlets on UPS and power distribution units, which lets customers bill customers according to power use. "They can use the data to force customers and internal customers to recognize that power isn't free," he said."

New Technologies

Several new technologies are being employed as new data centers are built and older ones remodeled, but their effectiveness is often subject to debate.

Next: Better Ways To Keep Cool

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