New HP division makes data centers green

Using power more wisely saves money

Bill Kosik knows a thing or two about building efficient data centers. As managing principal of consultancy EYP Mission Critical Facilities in Chicago, Kosik helped HP plan its global project to consolidate 85 data centers into just six.

HP liked EYP's work so much that it decided to buy the consulting firm a year ago, transforming it into a new Critical Facilities Services division that helps HP clients plan the building of energy efficient data centers or retrofit existing ones.

Financial institutions are particularly interested in reducing energy use, as data centers can use 30 percent of an organization's energy even while taking up just 5 percent of its square footage, Kosik says. Retrofitting existing data centers is often worthwhile but extremely difficult, he adds.

"It's expensive and you can't turn the thing off. You're basically doing open heart surgery on a patient that's running around the block," Kosik says.

Going after low-hanging fruit can sometimes have a big impact, though. Kosik notes that many data centers waste power simply by keeping the thermostat too low.

"In traditional data centers, you walk into them and they're like refrigerators," he says. "That's really not the way to do it. If we raise that temperature five of 10 degrees you could save easily close to 40% on power for your cooling systems. Climate has a huge impact on data centers."

Efficient power distribution systems are vital as well. More than 10 percent of a power supply can dissipate while it travels from the edge of a building to its destined target inside the data center, according to Kosik.

"It's not sexy stuff, but it makes a big difference," Kosik says. "Right now, there's huge momentum in the industry to push energy efficiency, but from a more pragmatic standpoint."

In many cases, retrofitting isn't feasible from a financial perspective, and it's better to build a data center from scratch. In addition to helping HP plan two new US-based data centers as part of the 85-to-6 consolidation, EYP has provided consulting services to many of the world's top financial institutions, major Internet and software companies, and high-performance computing centers.

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