Re-Thinking Energy Saving Strategies for Data Centers

Quick. What uses more electricity? The American automobile industry or the Internet? Has to be cars and trucks, right?

Not even close. The Internet is a massive user of electricity. One reason for the tremendous need for electricity can be traced to the continuous need for data centers and servers. And while it’s troubling to hear that we’ve only begun to see the growth in data center efficiency, it’s good to see companies with massive data centers and server needs are making significant advances in energy efficiency.

In years past, data center managers cared little about energy efficiency. Their primary concerns were reliability and performance. In fact, little was known about how external elements – from cooling to lighting to compressed air – affected a server’s performance.

Basically, companies would just slap ‘em in a cold room and hope for the best.

But when facility managers began to realize that the cost to run servers far exceeded the actual cost of the equipment, the mind-set began to change.

The Emerson Network, a technology company based in St. Louis, conducts a bi-annual study of data center managers, tracking their top concerns. Ten years ago, energy efficiency wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Today, it continues to be one of the top five concerns.

The good news in all of this is that because the “efficiency bar” was originally set so low, there are a myriad of options for data centers today.

It’s probably safe to say that if your data center hasn’t been updated recently, your “air” management needs improvement – at a minimum. Today’s servers can handle the heat and various other environmental issues once thought to be debilitating.

Often, redundancies are a common issue – multiple back-up servers when only one is needed, humidifiers battling it out with dehumidifiers… you get the idea.

With these redundancies come significant energy efficiency opportunities for most any data center. Moreover, data center equipment manufacturers are making more capable, efficient and reliable equipment. Hopefully, the more companies like Google, Facebook and IBM tout their data center energy efficiency improvements, the more common – and innovative – they’ll become for businesses of every size.

Article by Tim Laughlin, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.

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