To Trim Data Center Energy Costs, Disconnect Unused Servers

By Kenneth Brill  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: This PagePt. 2: An Efficient Data Center Depends on Efficient Server Power SuppliesPt. 3: Virtualization Of Servers Can Slash Energy Use

When it comes to reducing data center energy expenditures, facility executives typically focus on facility costs, especially cooling. Those efforts are important, but the facility infrastructure is only one factor in the cost equation. A bigger number lies outside the control of the facility executive: the kilowatts consumed by servers and other IT hardware. To make the biggest cuts in data center energy use, facility executives should start thinking inside those boxes.

Facility executives who take a moment to learn the opportunities and the challenges facing IT executives are in a much better position to carry on informed conversations and build alliances that can help both departments reach their common goal: spending less on energy.

The biggest opportunity is also the easiest to do: Just go up to every server that isn’t being used and unplug it.

Corporations are buying new servers all the time. Each year, the U.S. alone adds about 1 million servers. That’s good news and bad news. New equipment can be more energy efficient than the hardware it replaces. Unfortunately, new servers don’t always replace old ones. Instead, they are simply added to the data center, increasing energy consumption rather than cutting it. The same thing goes for storage devices.

That tendency becomes a serious problem and a significant opportunity, especially for large corporations. Big companies have the potential to save millions of dollars a year in combined capital and operating costs. Conversely, the costs of failing to take old equipment out of service may affect profitability or make it harder to fund some new IT projects.

Most companies aren’t doing a good job of shutting down old hardware. In most data centers, at least one in six pieces of hardware is doing no work but remains plugged in. And there are plenty of data centers where nearly one in every three servers and storage devices is gobbling up electricity even though no applications are running on them.

Clearly, shutting down old IT servers and storage devices doesn’t just happen. The problem is that IT staffs are so lean that they don’t have time to go around and unplug that hardware. Everyone knows it should be done after new equipment has been installed, but it isn’t a priority because there always seem to be more urgent fires to put out. As time passes it becomes much more difficult to remember which servers should be unplugged. After the fact, a big research effort is required to reconstruct information available to everyone the day the new equipment came through the door.

The solution is to establish a rigorous program to decommission obsolete hardware. Find a powerful advocate for shutting down old servers and storage devices. Facility executives may not be able to take on that job directly. But a facility executive can get the ball rolling. Do a back-of-the-envelope calculation to see how much electricity is being wasted if 15 percent of servers are not doing useful computing — a conservative estimate for many organizations. Then show that number to IT. With data center energy costs a growing concern in most companies, IT executives are becoming more sensitive energy issues. They may well be receptive to an opportunity to have an immediate impact on the bottom line.

Continue Reading: Data Centers: Tips For Improving Server Efficiency

To Trim Data Center Energy Costs, Disconnect Unused Servers

An Efficient Data Center Depends on Efficient Server Power Supplies

Virtualization Of Servers Can Slash Energy Use

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  posted on 2/1/2009   Article Use Policy

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