Want a Green Data Center? Check Your Power Infrastructure

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New Tips to Improve Energy Management

Ways software can be used to improve overall data center energy use.

Improving power efficiency in the data center is a multitrack process. One track is on the micro-architecture and component level, where advanced hardware designs are driving greater performance per watt.

There are also software/middleware solutions designed to improve data management and handling with an eye toward more efficient load balancing and resource utilization.

A third approach, however, is to take direct aim at the power generation and distribution infrastructure itself. It turns out there are a lot of savings to be had by more closely aligning the energy environment with the needs of data infrastructure.

Most power management platforms require a high degree of integration with enterprise systems to be truly effective, according to Emerson Network Power's Peter Panfil. A key requirement is an optimal monitoring capability, which should extend not only to UPS and power distribution units (PDU) but directly to the server racks and all the way to battery systems. Your ultimate aim is real-time reporting and monitoring so that actions, both automated and manual, can be taken quickly to meet changing usage patterns.

Power efficiency also requires some operational changes, according to Power Assure CEO Brad Wurtz. For instance, you should increase server inlet temperatures to the ASHREA-recommended 80.6 degrees F, and it might not be a bad idea to introduce power charge-backs-if only to keep the reality of data center consumption front and center in your business units.

Integration of power management systems into data center environments is most effective at the virtual layer, says Soeren Jensen, vice president of data center software for APC by Schneider Electric. The company's latest InfraStruxure release, Management Software Portfolio 6.2, offers bi-directional integration with VMware vSphere environments. This provides rapid location of virtual machines and redeployment to the most efficient hardware configurations. The package also provides guidance on room shape, equipment placement, power/cooling patterns and other data center design considerations.

If anyone has a vested interest in efficient data centers, it's Google. The company recently ponied up $20 million in seed money for a startup called Transphorm, said to be close to releasing a new power conversion module that reduces the efficiency penalties when transitioning between AD and DC power. The system eschews silicon-based power converters, which can lose up to 10 percent of available energy at each conversion, in favor of gallium nitride, which is better at retaining voltage but tends to degrade more quickly.

When looking for ways to improve power efficiency, it makes no sense to skip over actual power infrastructure. Only by integrating all facets of data creation, processing and storage will enterprises be able to meet the aggressive efficiency goals that are being set by both the industry and governments around the world.