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Worldwide, there has been a lot of focus in recent years on reducing the environmental impact of Data Centers. Green always comes at a cost, but once it is viewed as a long-term investment rather than as a quick return on investment (ROI), it can be a viable cost cutting option. Data center investments are enormous; they are built with a long term vision of 10 to 15 years and, therefore, any means of reducing the amount of capital required need to be seriously considered. By improving the power efficiency of our Data Centers, we can simultaneously reduce the capital equipment required and the cost of power and maintenance to operate. This dramatically improves the ROI on our data center investments.

Energy costs in Qatar are exceptionally low (less than 2c per KWh) and this can contribute to the perception that there is a weak ROI on Green Energy Efficient investments. However, this perception fails to take into account the lost opportunity of re-selling valuable energy resources abroad rather than consuming them wastefully on the domestic market.

So, we had enough of the whys, now how do we go green? The simple magic words are Energy Efficiency and High Utilization. We could choose to have 1,000 servers operating at 5% average efficiency or 100 servers operating at 50% average efficiency. Many organizations choose to operate one application on one server, so 1,000 applications means 1,000 servers. By introducing virtualization we can run multiple applications on shared servers reducing costs, improving efficiency and being green all at the same time.

Virtualization can enable a perfect storm of efficiency; we reduce the number of servers, thereby reducing both the capital cost and operation costs of those servers. Virtualization enables reductions in both data center capital costs and the operational cost of supplying electricity and cooling. One often forgotten additional advantage is the reduction in software licensing and maintenance costs because we are managing a smaller IT estate.

Storage is an important issue to focus on to improve efficiency; one enterprise disk of storage consumes as much as 1MWh (megawatt-hour) over its useful life. CIOs and COOs often find it very difficult to delete data that is no longer useful. Studies show that the chances of needing a document or a spreadsheet reduce exponentially across time, so the chances of you needing that 7-year-old spreadsheet ever again are close to zero. Best practice establishes that we should set a data retention policy and ruthlessly delete data that goes beyond that time.

Data deduplication can be an additional useful tool toward reducing data storage costs and increasing storage efficiency. Data deduplication is a specific form of compression where redundant data is eliminated, typically to improve storage utilization. Deduplication is able to reduce the required storage capacity since only the unique data is stored. This in turn can reduce the overall footprint inside the data center. Deduplication can help by squeezing out between 10 to 20 percent more storage space just by getting rid of duplicated data.

Another valuable solution is to upgrade the Data Center equipment into Modern equipment that has larger capacity, e.g: multiple old servers can be replaced by one modern server combining the benefit of energy efficiency and smaller space requirements. Upgrading old Data center equipment can roughly increase energy efficiency by 3-4 times.

Cooling problems are clearly a major growing concern for Data Center Managers. As per Gartner Research , it is estimated that data Centers typically waste more than 60% of their energy just in cooling their equipment. Traditional cooling techniques are inadequate both economically and operationally. The solutions stemming from newer technologies are District Cooling and Hot Aisle Containment.

MEEZA data centers at QSTP leverage the massive investment made by the Qatar Foundation in district cooling, offering extremely efficient large scale plants that could not be replicated elsewhere in the country. Expert MEEZA engineers routinely virtualize customer applications, reducing the need for large numbers of servers and dramatically reducing overall energy consumption. MEEZA leads the way in IT sustainability by demonstrating best practice in Green IT.

  • http://www.liebert.com Dave Kelley

    Many of the cooling problem concerns in data centers are due to the rapid growth of higher density server equipment and the lack of proper airflow management of the cooling system. Having enough cooling capacity for a specific space does not guarantee that the load will be cooled properly. Getting the right amount of “cool” air to the load is very critical. Incorporating best practices in airflow management is a must, such as hot aisle/cold aisle, blanking panels in racks, between racks and under racks, and sealing cable cut-outs just to name a few. Once you have done all of these, then you can look at improving your efficiency by doing things such as raising operating temperatures, enclosing the cold aisle to separate the air streams (this white paper gives a good explanation of this process: http://bit.ly/c3CgUE) and using supplemental cooling for high density areas.