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Data processing needs efficiency consideration

Data centre, server and computer room cooling is one of the biggest challenges in the IT industry.

With air conditioning techniques so far advanced that today’s technology could be obsolete in six months, the balancing act for a data centre manager is to get the best technology and maintain the most efficient and powerful cooling system they can.

They must scrutinise their current systems and infrastructure to ensure that they are not only operating at the highest of standards but also complying with government set standards, without sacrificing their commercial objectives.

Undertaking a thorough review represents the best way to achieve this:

Power density

Power density requirements for deployed IT equipment are a central aspect of a server room cooling system. It is also imperative that the solutions are designed to not only support today’s IT equipment, but also to provide flexibility and scalability moving forward.

Cooling

Cooling is the largest consumer of power within the data centre M&E infrastructure, and in many legacy facilities more than the IT equipment itself, so selecting the right solution will have a vast impact on improving the energy efficiency of the facility as a whole and reducing ongoing operational costs.

Airflow

The key to maintaining the right environmental conditions, avoiding hotspots and maximising efficiency, is to fully understand and control the airflow within the room space. You must also take into consideration the supply of cool air, the heat load of the server and the server’s heat rejection as one process.

The design of the air conditioning system is also critical to the efficiency and reliability of the site as power requirements for air conditioning can constitute up to a third of overall power consumption.

It is clear, therefore, that increasing attention has to be paid to the efficiency of any data centre cooling system. The design must be as efficient as possible while still supplying the required cooling loads.

Businesses are able to take various measures to address these issues such as making use of outside air for cooling when the ambient temperature does not exceed set levels, saving on both running costs and air conditioning equipment.

Items of equipment that are more tolerant of running in higher temperatures may be segregated and supplied with vented non air conditioned air, making further savings.

Correctly setting out computer racking into hot and cold aisles will ensure a direct hot air path back to the air handling equipment.
In larger data centres and computer rooms chilled water systems are normally employed. These have the advantage of being able to run in free cool mode with reduced running costs where conditions allow.

Businesses need to think carefully and implement a practical strategy when developing a data centre.

Goals and objectives

Companies sometimes decide they need more power and cooling before asking themselves why. Before augmenting power and cooling capacity, organisations should take a close look at the factors driving their increased need for computing capacity.

It may be that part of their problem is not a shortage of power and cooling but an excess of under-utilised servers, unnecessary applications and duplicate data.

Power and cooling audit

One of the initial steps in any efficiency drive should be establishing baseline Power Utilisation Efficiency (PUE) and Data Centre infrastructure Efficiency (DCiE) measures to track your progress.

The best way to arrive at these figures is by having a certified power system engineer (PSE) conduct a thorough audit of your data centre.

Monitoring strategy

In addition to calculating your power efficiency, you must also equip yourself to measure efficiency on an ongoing basis by installing monitoring and metering software. Such systems collect power usage data from across your data centre.

They can also alert facility managers when equipment is in danger of exceeding power or temperature thresholds, identify seasonal shifts in energy demand and project future power and cooling requirements based on current usage patterns.

Allan Room is data centre general manager at Onyx Group Edinburgh