Beyond Energy Efficiency – ROI for Sustainable Data Centers

This article is contributed by Peter Halliday, Head of Siemens Building Technologies Division for ASEAN.

In March this year, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) launched the BCA-IDA Green Mark for New Data Centers. This would be targeted at data centers that fulfil the established green standards, and it comes ahead of the opening of a data center park in Singapore in 2016.

As Singapore grows to be a data center hub, both the IT industry and building authorities are emphasizing the importance of energy efficient data centers. With servers running 24X7 under tightly controlled environmental conditions and often not at full capacity, data centers are among the world’s largest consumers of energy. IDA estimates that energy consumption accounts for more than 50% of the operating expenditure in a typical data center in Singapore.

In order for today’s data centers to be sustainable, both economically and environmentally, disjointed energy measures are insufficient. There needs to be an integrated approach to data center infrastructure in order for genuine energy optimization to be realized.

Peter Halliday, Head of Siemens Building Technologies Division for ASEAN, discusses the challenges of operating energy efficient data centers and how operators can increase energy efficiency by adopting green practices at the infrastructure level.

Environmental footprint of data centers

Energy consuming operations

Data centers consume more energy than any other building in the world as they operate without downtime in tightly controlled environments. Due to their energy-demanding operations, they are major carbon emitters. Environmental groups estimate that data centers contribute around two percent of the world’s total carbon emissions and are expected to overtake the airline industry in the amount of carbon emitted by 2020.

Disjointed energy measures

Due to the heat-and-moisture sensitivity of IT equipment, data centers require strictly controlled humidity and temperature levels. Disjointed energy measures, such as trying to optimize ventilation systems in order to affect the facility’s cooling needs, are often used to reduce the operating energy demand. These measures are stop-gap solutions as they do not affect or increase a data center’s energy efficiency, instead they merely mitigate the effects of a poorly designed data center.

Mapping out a green data center

With a Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) system, data centers are able to map out an outline for environmentally sustainable and high performing operations. This in turn will enable them to maximize their full potential, in terms of energy consumption, life cycle, asset management and operational efficiency, which leads to smaller real estate requirements and decreased operating costs.

The outline typically consists of the following elements.

Maximizing cooling efficiency

With sophisticated airflow management, hot- or cold-aisle containment, efficient cooling and patented heat recovery systems, data center operators are able to adjust the environmental conditions in the data centers according to actual cooling demands. This optimizes the facility’s cooling efficiency, which in turn leads to a lower amount of energy consumed during day-to-day operations.

Limiting energy loss from installed equipment

With a monitoring system that allows data center operators to observe the exact amount of energy consumed in the facility, as well as the data center’s energy consumption trends, energy loss on installed equipment is quickly identified for prompt rectification. This minimizes any unintentional loss of energy.

Decreasing operating energy requirements

New technology and design features in data centers allow for higher internal temperature and humidity set points that do not affect the performance of IT equipment. This greatly reduces the demand load for cooling and cuts down operating energy demand.

Increasing power usage effectiveness

With power monitoring devices and communication-capable circuit breakers, that reliably and precisely monitor power at strategic points, operators are able to monitor power consumption patterns in real-time. Communication-capable circuit breakers increase the transparency in power distribution by transmitting current status, alarm signals and threshold warnings. Power usage strategies can then be adjusted and corrective actions taken to ensure optimal power usage.

Green steps in Singapore

As Singapore grows to be a data center hub for the region, the need for energy efficient data centers will be critical as energy resources are limited. Data centers that are energy efficient at the infrastructure level will result in optimized performance, without compromising on environmental sustainability, which will lead to lower operating costs.

Source credit: Peter Halliday, Head of Siemens Building Technologies Division for ASEAN

Image credit: data centre by jodax, stock.xchng

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3 Responses to “Beyond Energy Efficiency – ROI for Sustainable Data Centers”
  1. Amit Singh says:

    I understand power usage effectiveness, i.e. PUE is minimised with better control over data center infrastrucure, which may encompass what precesely have been mentioned in the article-power monitoring devices and communication-capable circuit breakers. Ideally a PUE close to 1 (one) signifies a high degree of efficiency, but data centers are trying hard to keep the value at around 1.2 Poorer the infra equipments, higher will be the PUE.

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