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The evolving world of data centres

Written by  Sandeep Nair
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Sandeep NairIssue:India 2010
Article no.:4
Topic:The evolving world of data centres
Author:Sandeep Nair
Title:Director
Organisation:Emerson Network Power (India)
PDF size:179KB

 

 

About author

Sandeep Nair is Managing Director of Emerson Network Power (India) Pvt. Ltd. Sandeep has more than a decade of experience in the IT industry and is currently Chairman, Western Region for the Manufacturer’s Association for Information Technology, MAIT. Sandeep Nair has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Management Studies from the University of Mumbai. He is currently pursuing a PhD in eSupply Chain Management.

 

Article abstract

Data centres are energy intensive and can therefore be expensive to deploy. The design of energy efficient data centres has become a priority. But following best operating practices that have already been adopted and implemented in Indian and international data centres can result in enhanced energy efficiency, driving down energy consumption while freeing physical space and power and cooling capacity to support growth.

 

Full Article

The world has started showing signs of revival and the current economic situation is looking up. Thankfully, India has always been one of the independent economies with almost two-thirds of its produce consumed domestically. This has saved it from some of the harsher repercussions of the slowdown. Experts today estimate India’s growth at 7 per cent, a good scenario considering the situation in the west where Europe is flat and overall growth in the USA has slowed. However, maintaining the estimated growth rate requires our industries to grow at a rapid pace and be supported by world-class infrastructure. That includes quality power supply. The power sector plays a crucial role in the development of an economy. It is an important factor for rapid economic growth and industrialisation in a country. Most sectors such as IT, banking, telecom and manufacturing require 24/7 uptime. With gradual economic revival and industrialisation, power consumption escalates rapidly across many economic sectors, compelling industry players to manage their power portfolio efficiently. Reduction in energy consumption at the IT equipment level tends to have the greatest impact on overall consumption because such equipment is present across all support systems. Data centres, for example, can be expensive deployments because they are energy intensive. This imposes tremendous pressure on developers to design energy efficient data centres. Energy consumption in data centres is driven by the demand within almost every organisation for greater computing capacity and increased IT centralisation. People need to know that the available power supply will be adequate for their demands. Use of energy efficient technologies is important to help keep a check on power demand. Alternate power sources and back-up are also critical. Power shortages can result in a variety of economic losses: • production loss; • sales loss; and • efficiency loss. These may be followed by other intangible losses such as damage to brand image, loss of customers, business losses and loss of employees – all key factors driving the need for more energy efficient data centres. However, there is no short-term solution to such problems. Companies need to focus instead on energy efficient products which will help reduce power consumption and improve power utilisation. Today, a company’s philosophy should be to facilitate near 100 per cent uptime for its customers. ‘Adaptive Architecture’ is a concept that can help companies build energy efficient systems. Adaptive Architecture focuses on three key factors: Reliability – Never compromise on reliability. This means there should not be any downtime. Flexibility – We do not want to force customers into long-term commitments to products which may become out of date. We must ensure that products supplied in the market are adaptable and will not become a barrier to data centre scalability. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) – TCO consists of Capital Expenditure (capex) and Operating Expenditure (opex). Due to the growing awareness of energy efficiency, today’s customers are becoming increasingly sensitive about opex rather than capex. If we do not give due consideration to the energy efficiency of a data centre during installation, then obviously the opex can exceed the entire capex over a period. Therefore, we need to ensure installation of optimal components in order to reduce opex. Against this background, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), an independent body working under the Ministry of Power, has taken an initiative to introduce best operating practices that would result in enhanced energy efficiency and design guidelines for future data centres. The BEE had earlier introduced the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) to promote energy efficiency in the commercial building sector. The code has been well received across the country. Subsequent to the ECBC, BEE brought out the ‘Manual on Best Practices in Indian Data Centres’. A manual covering ‘Energy efficiency guidelines for new and upcoming data centres’ will soon follow. The best practices manual highlights some of the best practices adopted and implemented in Indian and international data centres. It has detailed four prominent focus areas in a typical data centre in terms of implementing energy efficiency measures. • Electrical systems and power – Power is an important factor as it involves maintaining quality of power and protection of critical equipment from any hazards. Energy reduction can be achieved with proper planning and implementation of efficient technologies that exist today. In data centres, reducing power consumption is one of the most effective ways to cut costs and go green. Power management solutions are therefore beginning to emerge as one of the core components as they reduce the TCO and increase the return on investment on infrastructure costs. • Critical cooling system – Over the years, the increase in processor densities has turned power and cooling requirements into critical cost components. For every rupee spent on a new server, 50 paise are spent on energy to power and cool it. This is driving the data centre market. The focus is no longer on green computing, but instead on innovative cooling techniques that can manage the excessive heat generated due to increased processor densities. The manual details various technologies and strategies that can help in achieving optimum cooling efficiency in a data centre. • IT peripherals – With increasing levels of complexity involved in deploying IT solutions, data centre managers are looking for intelligent solutions to achieve energy efficiency and to manage key resources. Over the past few months, due to economic pressures, traditional data centres have been compelled to offer more services while reducing resource costs. Virtual data centres are considered to be good practice for small and medium level players as they bring benefits such as increased resource utilisation, decreased power and cooling consumption, faster provisioning, higher availability and savings in physical rack space requirements. • Operation and maintenance – Companies rely on IT infrastructure for automation, productivity and business management, so employee productivity and customer management can be severely impacted by network downtime. As a result, the continuous operation of data centres has become vital and the reputation and success of the service provider depends on consistent and uninterrupted power for the network. Monitoring and management is essential. Without monitoring, situations involving loss of mains power leading to battery backup will not be known to the central facility and will not work as early warning mechanisms. In such situations, if the diesel generator set does not kick in after the battery backup is exhausted the whole facility will come to a complete halt. Further, case studies have been included to demonstrate best practices for better visibility in the areas of electrical power distribution systems, data centre cooling, IT peripherals and systems, and operations and maintenance. The ten principles of energy efficiency in data centres Companies should ensure that they not only approach the market with products but also with concepts and solutions to achieve overall energy efficiency. Technologies pertaining to energy efficiency, environment protection and renewable energy are on the radar of all organisations. One of the better methods is already in place and has been adopted by several companies not just locally but also globally. ‘The ten principles of energy efficiency in data centres’ concept is a roadmap for reducing energy consumption. For data centre and IT managers, it provides a sequential approach to energy optimisation that starts with IT equipment and moves through to support infrastructure to create a cascade of savings. Savings are quantified and return on investment times estimated for each step in the process. All the technologies used in this approach are available today and many can be deployed into the data centre as part of regular technology upgrades, minimising capital expenditures. These ten principles are: 1. Processor efficiency 2. Power supplies 3. Power management software 4. Blade servers 5. Server virtualisation 6. Cooling best practices 7. 415V AC power distribution 8. Variable capacity cooling 9. High density supplemental cooling 10. Monitoring and optimisation Data centre managers and designers, IT equipment manufacturers and infrastructure providers must all collaborate to optimise data centre efficiency. For data centre managers, there are a number of actions, as mentioned above, that can be taken today to significantly drive down energy consumption while freeing physical space and power and cooling capacity to support growth. If these points are kept in mind while designing a data centre, companies can define a vision for achieving energy efficiency in Indian data centres. Realising these efficiency gains will require coordination and collaboration among many stakeholders: the government, the IT industry, data centre operators, electric utilities, and others. We are keen to ensure that data centre users in India will make use of this manual as an opportunity to improve and enhance energy efficiency capabilities and move towards greener data centres to support a healthier environment today and tomorrow.

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