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Although data center energy efficiency has significantly advanced over the past decade, the most progress has being recorded around facility and equipment efficiencies, and not much around server operation efficiency. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “data centers are the fastest-growing users of electricity in developed countries, and one of the key drivers in the construction of new power plants in the United States.” Furthermore, 40% of the U.S. server electricity consumption belongs to smaller server rooms and closets and a quarter of it is wasted because of obliviousness toward efficiency incentives. Not only does this inefficient energy consumption add on to bills, it increases carbon pollution as well. Knowing what’s in a data center is the first step toward improving energy efficiency and reducing costs.

Here are four ways to increase data center energy efficiency.

  1. Consider server virtualization and consolidation.

    Data centers comprise of servers, data storage devices, networking equipment, and infrastructure equipment, which typically provides specialized power conversion and environmental control. Being informed about the utilization of your data center is important in managing energy efficiency. It is estimated that “20 to 30 percent of servers in large data centers today are idle, obsolete, or unused but are still plugged in and operating in “on” mode, consuming energy doing nothing.” If you have underutilized servers, make use of server virtualization and consolidation—a process that consolidates lightly-used servers into one. The consolidation of lightly-used servers will lessen the power necessary to run the data center, hence reducing costs and wasted electricity. Another option is decommissioning unused servers or storage devices that hold little to no value. Proper IT asset disposition is a secure and efficient way to retire unused IT assets and gain maximum return in your data center. Removing these power-hogging servers and having a better management of your equipment will greatly improve energy efficiency.

  2. Invest in high-efficiency technology.

    New technology is developed year after year, with qualities that improve business processes and efficiency. One example is the ENERGY STAR program, which sets energy efficiency requirements for a variety of product types. ENERGY STAR, in accordance with the United States Environmental Protections Agency (EPA), inspects and certifies qualified servers that reduce energy consumption by 30%. Leading manufacturers such as Cisco, HP and IBM have already taken steps to certify their machines to ENERGY STAR requirements. Are your servers ENERGY STAR-qualified? Determine if your data center is equipped with servers that consume less energy than conventional servers, and if it’s not, consider making investments in that area.

  3. Leverage airflow management.

    Keeping data centers cool is a top priority, but it is not the easiest of tasks. Cooling contributes to a huge portion of the electricity consumption, but it’s necessary to ensure the equipment remains at temperatures optimal for operation. As the density of server racks increases, IT managers are challenged to find more efficient cooling solutions. There are a variety of techniques that can be implemented. One option is to take advantage of the equipment’s hot/cold aisle to create a more uniform air temperature. Arranging your server racks so that their fronts face each other is proven to improve airflow, so the use of a cooling system will be much less needed. Also, simply knowing what temperature your servers can handle will prevent the unnecessary use of additional cooling systems.

  4. Make use of the surroundings.

    What better way to reduce cost and energy consumption than to make use of the surroundings. Many public-facing companies, such as Facebook and Apple, have green data centers where they use the gifts of Mother Nature to cool their systems. Facebook’s latest data center located in Lulea, Sweden takes advantage of water-cooling techniques as well as the chilly Nordic air to avert overheating. Apple, on the other hand, powers their plant and data centers in Maiden, North Carolina with renewable energy like solar and hydro. Similar initiatives can be replicated to reduce energy consumption impact and improve efficiency.

Earth Day is a good reminder that we should all come contribute to conserving energy, minimizing waste, and protecting our planet’s natural resources. With a keen awareness of your data center, you can reduce costs, decrease environmental impact, and improve efficiency. Spread the message and Happy Earth Day, everyone!


[1] https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/data-center-efficiency-assessment-IP.pdf[2] https://www.greenbiz.com/article/12-green-data-centers-worth-emulating-apple-verne[3] https://www.energystar.gov/sites/default/files/asset/document/DataCenter-Top12-Brochure-Final.pdf