Green Data Centers Improve Energy Use and the Bottom Line

Monday, September 28, 2015 2:00 pm EDT


John Kovach, Global Head of Data Center Solutions, Siemens

On any given day, we send 294 billion emails and watch 500 years’ worth of videos on YouTube. This astronomical exchange of information has become a natural part of our everyday lives and seems common place since we’re able to do it with the click of a button, but the infrastructure supporting our growing data sharing habits is anything but easy. Data centers around the world are critical to making our digital lives possible, but as the information we exchange every day continues to grow, their footprints grow with it. And, since data centers account for approximately 1.5-2% of world’s total energy usage, there is an increased focus on sustainability initiatives and calls for greater energy efficiency. This leads to a key question: How does a company ensure its data centers support information management needs in an energy efficient manner? It may seem like an almost impossible mission, but with the right technology, data centers don’t need to continue hogging power.

Greener data centers have emerged as a way to increase energy efficiency, minimize operating costs, and reduce environmental impact without compromising uptime. These facilities are entirely built, managed, and operated on green computing principles, including green design, green use, green manufacturing, and green disposal. These principles address two issues that plague the average data center: 1) The power required to run the actual equipment, and 2) The power required to cool the equipment. Green data centers address both as they provide the same storage space as conventional data centers, but they consume up to 80% less energy.

Establishing a green data center involves a holistic process that starts with a thorough assessment, and proper and consistent monitoring of all components of the data center. There are a lot of variables in these facilities— servers, power and cooling equipment, fire detection, security and access control, and much more. They all need to be assessed, monitored and managed for operation and for energy usage. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, a huge impact can be made from turning off under-utilized servers and eliminating “zombie servers.” 

Other key opportunities for a reduction of energy usage include installing efficient cooling systems, or chillers, for the servers and leveraging Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software tools to monitor, measure, manage, and/or control data center performance, utilization, and energy consumption. Building management stations like Siemens Desigo CC help data centers optimize energy and operational efficiency, and DCIM dashboard solutions like Datacenter Clarity LC™ can help monitor trends and confirm energy savings. Data center owners can also take measures to improve air flow management, air quality, and water efficiency. Leveraging LEED principles, such as incorporating renewable energy sources, also greatly impact a facility’s efficiency and carbon footprint.

These technologies are addressing challenges in today’s data center market, but it’s still essential to look at how the energy systems of the future can impact this power-intensive market. In Cheyenne, Wyoming, Siemens partnered with Microsoft and Fuel Cell Energy to develop and launch the first biogas-powered, zero-carbon data center in the world. The power monitoring technology inside the data center’s infrastructure determines how much power is being created by the biogas and fuel cell system, as well as how much is needed. Insight into this process allows operators to ensure enough biogas is flowing and power created so Microsoft can count on renewable resources to keep its data center operational at all times.

The green data centers of today (and tomorrow) save money by reducing operational and capital expenses, including power and cooling costs as well as equipment wear and tear. They also help companies meet their sustainability goals by more efficiently using resources. With data centers becoming more complex, it’s important for companies to have deep insight into application performance, capacity, and energy use. By proactively monitoring these and identifying IT inefficiencies, they can return wasted dollars to their bottom lines.

Editor’s Note: John Kovachis responsible for the Global Data Center Vertical Market for Siemens Building Technologies and Siemens Energy Management Businesses. He is also a Board Member of The Green Grid.