Energy Efficiency in the Data Center

Hardware, licenses, applications, remote hands, even the expense of redundancy—none of it compares to the price of power in the data center; and power needs are increasing exponentially as processing intensifies and demand for rack space rises.

More Power Equals More Heat

Data center power is partly to keep physical servers running, but it’s also to keep them cool enough to run: as servers increase in processing power, so does heat generation. A rack that five years ago produced about five kilowatts of heat may today produce as much as 28 kilowatts. To give some idea of how much heat that is: 28 kilowatts equals 95,000 BTU or roughly 8 tons of air conditioning. A typical house air conditioner is three tons, 10 kilowatts, or 34,000 BTU. That means that it takes as much power to cool a high density rack as it would to cool about three single family homes—if it was high noon in that equatorial neighborhood 24 hours a day.

Sources of Inefficiency

Data centers have traditionally been inefficient environmentally. Compared to other costs, power has been cheap, and computing precious—if a little power was wasted, the result was incredible amounts of information analyzed, communicated and stored. The world seemed to have plenty of power, and a data center from the 70s or even the 80s would only be a blip on the power grid.

These days, data centers are much more prevalent: the Data Center Map, a free web service linking data center providers and customers, lists 1,297 colocation data centers in 59 countries. In addition, power has become more expensive and less available. However, data centers still use power like it’s cheap: a McKinsey & Company report on data center efficiency, released in 2008, says that on average, only six percent of server capacity is being used, and the data center facilities run at no more than about 56 percent capacity.

Three Ways to Cool Down the Data Center—and Save Money

Virtualization, resource management and physical server consolidation are three methods your hosting company and you can use to increase data center efficiency.

Virtualize Servers

One way to conserve power is to get every bit of computing power out of each piece of hardware. That’s where virtualization comes in. Virtualization allows you to consolidate your server requirements onto fewer physical machines, with the virtual machines consuming only about 1/50th the amount of power. Email servers, web servers and applications all act just as if they were running on individual boxes, but for a fraction of the cost, both in capital expense and power consumption.

According to many sources, including The Green Grid and the EPA, virtualization is one of the key ingredients of a more efficient, greener data center. In implementing virtualization, a product such as VMware provides some of the highest consolidation rates on a secure and reliable platform. With VMware, unused physical servers can even be powered off, and turned back on when needed.

Of course, virtual servers, especially VMware’s hardware-based virtualization, also offer increased application access for users, faster installation of new servers and better uptime. So not only will your virtual servers help reduce your carbon footprint and save you money, they’ll also improve your company’s competitiveness.

Allocate Resources with VMware DRS and DPM

Virtualization from VMware provides two additional technologies that help you reduce your costs through virtualization.

VMware Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) allows a hosting company and its clients to continuously monitor utilization and intelligently assign resources as needed. With DRS, resources can be allocated to higher priority applications, according to your rules, ensuring that your mission critical activities always have what they need. It also provides dedicated infrastructure for business units, without letting resources stand idle.

Supporting DRS, Distributed Power Management (DPM) optimizes power consumption by continuously monitoring power usage and automatically consolidating workloads and powering down unneeded resources. During lower use periods, DPM moves virtual server workloads onto the optimum number of physical servers and turns off the others. When requirements increase, DPM brings physical servers back online—without impact on the virtual server or the customer.

Consolidate Servers with Blades

Blades help reduce the energy footprint of servers by allowing multiple physical servers to be consolidated on one chassis, with one management interface per blade, while adding more advanced management features. The ProLiant BL490c Virtualization Blade solution being adopted by Infinitely Virtual will more than triple the number of virtual machines hosted in the same energy footprint.

According to HP, the BL 490c blades offer several key performance and management advantages: eighteen DIMM slots allow more virtual machines to be housed on each blade; integrated dual-port 10 GbE server adapter with Flex-10 technology offer the ability to fine-tune network bandwidth; conserve power without performance impact with the built-in HP Power Regulator, and reclaim trapped power in your data center by safely limiting server power consumption with Dynamic Power Capping.

The Future of the Green Data Center

Projects and organizations are being formed all over the world to address the problems of power consumption and heat generation. Here are three:

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are working to reduce the portion of electricity used to cool data center equipment by as much as 15 percent. In a simulated data center, Georgia Tech scientists are trying to optimize cooling strategies and develop new heat transfer models.

The Green Grid is an organization created by many of the big names in computers, power conditioning and data centers, including HP, AMD and Intel. Together, they are developing standards to measure data center efficiency, with the goal of reducing power requirements, waste heat and carbon emissions.

In the future, waste heat like that in a data center could be recycled into energy. Engineers at Oregon State University are taking waste heat and using it to run a cooling system.

To Save Money (and Help Save the Planet), Think Infinitely Virtual

Contact Infinitely Virtual to find out how virtualization and data center efficiency affect your company’s bottom line. Let us show you how hosting with Infinitely Virtual can help you reduce your company’s server costs, while simultaneously making your applications faster, your data more secure, and your planet a little bit cooler.

Find out more about the power and cooling advantages of VMware, HP Blade servers and virtualization at