As our appetite for all things IT and digital continues to grow, the need for data centres continues to grow, with more and more data centres erected, and much bigger than they were before. This places a tremendous amount of pressure on the electrical power utility providers.
Schneider Electric, the leaders in the digital transformation of energy management and automation, believe that efforts must be made to ensure that these data centres use their energy resources more efficiently.
“The question is; where does the data centre operator, manager or owner begin? For one to know how efficiently or inefficiently their data centre is running, one must start by measuring. A good start is to put in place power meters to allow one to know how much power is being consumed by the data centre,” says George Senzere, Schneider Electric’s Solutions Engineering Manager.
Typically, data centres require massive amounts clean uninterruptible power, and power usage for data centres ranges from a few kilowatts to tens of megawatts.
“This is power that is free from all the spikes, dips, sags or similar power disturbances. The power also has to come from a steady source that is not interrupted in any way. To achieve all this, data centre operators employ the use of Uninterruptible Power supplies commonly known as UPSs with different types of energy storage devices like batteries, flywheels and ultra-capacitors,” he explains.
In a typical setup, the UPS acts as a temporary supply of power to the data centre in the event of an outage from the electricity utility provider, and the emergency generator will be employed if the interruption takes longer than a few minutes.
“Ideally the bulk of the power must go to the active equipment and very little to all the non-active equipment in the data centre. Usually, the percentage that goes to the active equipment is about 50%, and to the cooling equipment about 35% of the total power supplied with the remainder going to other services like lighting, fire detection & suppression, access control and other smaller power consumers,” he says.
Unfortunately, older data centres are still employing the traditional methods of cooling, where computer room air-conditioners are placed at the perimeter of the data centre and used in conjunction with raised floor. While this cooling methodology tends to be very simple, straightforward to implement and less capital expenditure intensive, it has many inefficiencies when it comes to cooling when compared to other methodologies.
“Datacentre cooling takes the second most amount of power after the IT active equipment; therefore, it makes sense to focus efforts to reduce power consumption in making the cooling work more efficiently,” Senzere says.
“Retrofitting certain aspects of the data centre can dramatically increase cooling efficiencies. This may mean containing either the hot aisle or the cold aisle side of the racks to eliminate hot and cold air mixing; it may also mean introducing small things like blanking off all the open spaces on IT racks to avoid air short-circuiting.”
The use of renewable energies in data centres can also significantly reduce the power usage in data centres. However, special care needs to be taken to make sure these provide a continuous and reliable source of power.
“As innovation and technologies continue in the energy storage sector, I do not doubt that very soon the initial capital expenditure for the installation, and use of solar technologies will be within reach, making use of solar energy widely accessible in regions of the world where there is plenty of sunshine available,” he concludes.