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5 Steps to an Optimized Data Center

By Kenneth Hess (Send Email)
Posted May 6, 2011


Data centers are energy vacuums. Historically, they are sinkholes for money, power and inefficiencies. They don't have to be. If you're thinking of building a new data center or if you already have one "on the slab," you can pick up some pointers from the company that knows how to build an efficient data center: Google. These five data center optimizations are those that Google follows for its data centers.

1. Location, Location, Location

Follow the Google's data center efficiency model when designing, locating and equipping your own data center.

Does Google have a 100,000 square foot data center in Silicon Valley? No. Why? It's too expensive. Land is expensive. Power is expensive. And, people are too expensive. It's impressive to have a nice data center in Silicon Valley, but it does mean it might never turn a profit. Try moving your pride to a better, less expensive location. Google's U.S. data center locations: Berkeley County, South Carolina; Council Bluffs, Iowa; Lenoir, North Carolina; Mayes County, Oklahoma; and the Dalles, Oregon. All are a far piece from the pomp, circumstance, and expense of Silicon Valley, but is your company's stock price sitting at more than $500 per share? Google's is.

2. Manage Air Flow

Google states that, "Good air flow management is fundamental to efficient data center operation," and you should, "Start with minimizing hot and cold air mixing and eliminate hot spots." Data center air flow management is far more important than cooling and can, in fact, lower your need for additional cooling. One method for reducing the mixing of hot and cold air is to arrange your racked servers in a hot-aisle, cold-aisle configuration. In this scenario, cold air blows on the front sides of server systems, while the hot aisle's heat dissipates via exhaust fans. Adequate air flow also eliminates hot spots.

3. Adjust the Thermostat

Google also suggests that, "Raising the cold aisle temperature will minimize chiller energy use. Don't try to run at 70F in the cold aisle, try to run at 80F; virtually all equipment manufacturers allow this." As stated in Optimization No. 2, air flow is more important than frigid temperatures. Raising the thermostat 10 degrees will lower your power consumption by as much as 25 percent. Add that savings to your bottom line.

4. Free Cooling

Google thoroughly researches their data center locations, and you'll notice there's usually access to abundant water resources nearby. Cooler ambient air temps also help with this effort. Google states that, "water or air-side economizers can greatly improve energy efficiency."

5. Energy Efficient Servers

Focusing on energy conservation and efficiency in your server and storage purchases should be fundamental to your data center design. And, for a standing data center, your technology refresh plans should include energy efficient equipment if you're going to remain competitive in the future. Google provides the Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI) as a resource where you can find power-efficient servers. Included on the site is a search engine that lists servers according to their CSCI efficiency levels: Base, Bronze, Silver and Gold.

Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which was published in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.

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