November 15, 2017
Data centers take a lot of energy to run. According to a recent report by the federal government’s Lawrence Berkeley Lab, just a little under 2% of the nation’s total annual electrical generation goes to power data centers. Over the past two decades, there have been great gains in energy efficiency in data centers nationwide, but they’ve been largely the result of efficiency gains in mega data centers used by large corporations like Google and Facebook. Many smaller scale data centers have yet to implement efficiency measures, and they account for 60% of all data center energy use in 2020.
One of the largest sources of data center power usage involves cooling. Data servers generate an enormous amount of heat. Drawing that heat off and replacing it with cooler air takes a significant amount of electricity. However, there are several methods of cooling data centers that beat the less efficient and more cost-intensive traditional method of computer room air conditioning, or CRAC.
Gone are the days where 70 degrees is industry standard for an optimal server room temperature. Nearly all data center equipment can safely be operated at 80 degrees or higher. It’s a myth that data centers have to be kept cold to protect the servers and equipment. In fact, most manufacturers of modern data servers allow for safe operations of a data center’s cold aisle at a minimum of 80 degrees and sometimes higher. This is a simple way to significantly decrease your facility’s energy use.
Thermal modeling allows you to identify hot spots and understand the airflow of your data center. By using thermal modeling to set up the layout of your data center, you can arrange your equipment in a way that will even out the temperatures throughout. This set up will take the burden off of computer room air conditioners (CRAC units) and the CRACs will reduce the hotspots and ultimately run on a reduced schedule.
If you’re operating in a temperate climate, free air cooling can do the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to cooling a data center. Free air cooling capitalizes on the lower temperature of the external air by exchanging it for the warmer air inside. On average, a data center that’s operating at 86 degrees, 77 degree air outdoors is typically sufficient for cooling. While you may not be able to utilize free air cooling year round, using it as often as possible can significantly reduce the costs of operating your server equipment.
A newer free air system, like a heat wheel, eliminates the problem of increased air filtration that comes with bringing in cooler air from the outside. A heat wheel is a corrugated metal wheel that stands about 10 feet tall. It spins in an enclosed two compartment space. One compartment receives warm air from the data center and the other receives cooler air from outdoors. The cooler metal from the wheel absorbs a large amount of the heat from the warmer air. The cooled air is then sent back into the data center. As the wheel continues to turn it moves into the compartment filled with cooler air from the outside. The warmed metal is then cooled off by the outside air and the cycle begins again.
Ultimately, advanced planning and efficient data center equipment can help you to reduce energy costs in significant ways.
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