The key takeaways for achieving improved power management for data centers:

  1. Match customers’ data storage needs with facility location and connectivity requirements.
  2. Use sustainable energy where possible.
  3. Upgrade to smaller and better designed equipment.
  4. Look at total power consumption to measure facility efficiency.
  5. Leverage automation software to monitor and optimize operational efficiency.

Data Is the Backbone of Our Global Digital Lives & World

It’s amazing to contemplate where we are currently with technology and how our world and lives have changed because of it. If we think about integral aspects of life today, data is right out in front. Data is the backbone of our global digital lives and world. It pulses through our personal lives through e-mail and e-commerce, online banking and bill payment, social media, streaming services, and more.

And just think how important data is to the success and operations of businesses, industrial manufacturing/processes, and transportation/infrastructure management. So how can all this data, this big data, flow to be stored, networked, analyzed, and processed? Data centers, of course. And as our world progresses with its digital transformation generating increasing enormous amounts of data, the need for data centers will grow accordingly.

Data centers used to be centralized on-premises facilities that were managed by the IT departments of individual organizations; however, now to accommodate different business models and the immense amount of data, these data centers have been replaced with scalable distributed edge deployments and colocation and hyperscale data centers that provide cloud services. Which is pretty cool.

But these facilities require a heck of a lot of energy to operate; so much so that it is estimated to be 1% of the global electricity. So, a logical question that follows for those who own/operate these data centers is how to improve the management of the power required for these facilities. Let's see how.

Be Sure the Electrical Grid Can Handle the Power Demand

Before even thinking about the location of a new data center, you need to be sure that the electrical grid can handle the power demand. For a knowledgeable perspective, I asked one of our data center experts, Rick van der Kooij, Director Datacenter Application Engineering for EMEA, to weigh in on the topic. He had this to say:

“Before these facilities are even built, the details of power supply are designed and laid out with the owners of the data centers having worked out solid contracts with energy companies that contain good terms and conditions for energy supply. However, since data centers use vast amounts of energy, there must be assurances that the electrical grid can handle the demand. Even now, some areas in Europe are currently facing supply challenges.”

In fact, several approaches are being taken to address this issue. For one, many data centers are moving away from their current locations to locations that can provide the necessary power. Two, suitable data center locations along internet fiber routes are being scouted since connectivity is vital in most cases. Third, data centers are either looking at other ways to free up power or are deciding not to expand, so they will not need a power increase.

Match Customers’ Data Storage Needs with Facility Location & Connectivity Requirements

Another measure to deal with the challenge of power supply is by asking customers who are large data consumers, such as IT companies, to help. These customers can have a significant impact by deciding which data is stored at particular data centers. For instance, they can switch data that needs high connectivity rates to locations that provide this level of connectivity, and accordingly, switch data that requires low connectivity rates to remote data centers that provide low connectivity.

This approach makes the best use of both environment and connectivity and can therefore use underdeveloped locations for new data centers. As an example, the Scandinavia region has available and suitable environment for data centers and has a lot of capacity for supplying power. However, not all areas in this region have the required connectivity so would be better suited for solutions less dependent on connectivity. The next step is to ensure efficient and sustainable power management.

Approaches for Efficient & Sustainable Power Management

“At Mitsubishi Electric, most of the questions we are getting at the moment are about available market solutions that are efficient and sustainable and that can directly source energy toward data centers,” says Rick van der Kooij. A common example of sustainable power is solar panels.

Unfortunately, this source is not practical due to the difference between the size of the system and the amount of energy produced. Moreover, the footprint of solar panels to power data centers is too much, and the energy supply is not constant as it depends on the weather. Another option for sustainable power is wind energy, but there are many restrictions for building wind turbines at data center locations.

So, what are better solutions for power management for data centers? Two solutions that can increase power management efficiency include (1) improved and better designed equipment and (2) automation technology.

Better Designed Equipment Contributes to Efficiency

IT equipment for data centers encompasses tens of thousands of microelectronic components along with many types of timing chips. Equipment manufacturers are currently working on making better designed equipment that is smaller and more efficient. In addition, using better equipment will improve facility area utilization.

As you retire older equipment and upgrade to newer, better equipment, the overall efficiency of the data center will improve. A next level approach would be to implement automation solutions in data centers which would address total facility control for more impactful optimization.

Deploy Automation Software for Impactful Optimization

Thinking about the topic of optimization, Rick van der Kooij had this to add, “In the past 15 years that I have been in the data center market, the benchmark most commonly used to measure facility efficiency is power usage effectiveness (PUE). This metric represents only one piece of the puzzle. As such, we should start looking at the total power consumption for achieving optimization, not just at the facility level but also at the IT power usage level.”

To do this, he suggested that we use the Balanced Scorecard which brings PUE, energy efficiency ratio (EER), service level agreement (SLA), Redundancy, Load, and Load Balance in relation with each other through use of an integral single system that contains information about energy, cooling, and customer demands. This energy efficiency metric should combine the IT load and the facility load, which means that the automation software monitoring all the data center parameters needs to encompass and incorporate the power usage data from servers.

This is where automation software is extremely handy - by providing a global view of operations so teams can see where optimizations can be implemented. Such a solution allows data centers to gather and use all facility data to gain operational visibility to make data-driven decisions for increased efficiency.

Considering other aspects of efficiency is important if you want to improve power management to increase efficiency. These include not only the resources to create energy but also the facility’s assets and workforce. How many workforce hours do you need to operate a data center? How many maintenance cycles do you need? When do you need to schedule maintenance? Are you performing maintenance at the most optimal time?

By using automation software, you can better monitor your equipment and its health for optimal performance, thereby extending its life expectancy. Additionally, you will have a better understanding of your equipment and how to improve efficiency with optimal load, which can potentially increase efficiency by 15-20%. Other benefits of using automation software are much more efficient workflows and record keeping and report generation that eliminate time-consuming and error-prone manual tasks. All these positively impact efficiency.

Start with What You Have & Build from There

To end, the key takeaways for achieving improved power management are:

  1. Match customers’ data storage needs with facility location and connectivity requirements.
  2. Use sustainable energy where possible.
  3. Upgrade to smaller and better designed equipment.
  4. Look at total power consumption to measure facility efficiency.
  5. Leverage automation software to monitor and optimize operational efficiency.

Data matters. So why not use the data from your facilities for better control and monitoring and in turn, you can improve your power management and your facility’s efficiency. Through the use of automation software, you can link the operations of your facility’s IT equipment to its environment and building controls. You will therefore have a system that can read out your current infrastructure without adding more hardware or sensors. It works. You can start with what you have and build from there.

* This blog is based on a recent Data Centre Alliance (DCA) article we wrote with our colleagues at Mitsubishi Electric Europe. And for more information about data centers, have a look at Mitsubishi Electric EMEA’s industry page