Google: Five data center energy saving ideas you can implement

When it comes to saving data center energy few companies would have the expertise of Google, which has some of the largest data centers in the world. It has or is experimenting with some interesting ideas to cool data centers more efficiently as well - it will soon open a seawater-cooled data center in Finland for example.

More on energy: 10 hot energy projects that could electrify the world 

On its blog this week the company wrote "Google is lucky enough to have the resources and experts to continually improve efficiency. But around 70% of the world's data centers are operated by companies that probably don't."

With that in mind the company laid out what it calls some "simple design choices that you can apply to both small and large data centers to improve the efficiency of the facility. Saving energy will reduce the impact on the environment and also lead to significant financial savings. "

Here are the top five recommended best practices from Google's data center experts:

1. Measure up: You can't manage what you don't measure, so characterize your data center's efficiency performance by measuring energy use. We use a ratio called PUE - Power Usage Effectiveness - to help us reduce energy used for non-computing, like cooling and power distribution. To effectively use PUE it's important to measure often - we sample at least once per second. It's even more important to capture energy data over the entire year - seasonal weather variations have a notable affect on PUE.

2. Manage air flow: Good air flow management is fundamental to efficient data center operation. Start with minimizing hot and cold air mixing by using well-designed containment. Eliminate hot spots and be sure to use blanking plates for any unpopulated slots in your rack. We've found a little analysis can pay big dividends. For example, thermal modeling using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can help you quickly characterize and optimize air flow for your facility without many disruptive reorganizations of your computing room. Also be sure to size your cooling load to your expected IT equipment, and if you are building extra capacity, be sure your cooling approach is energy proportional.

3. Adjust the thermostat: Raising the cold aisle temperature will reduce facility energy use. Don't try to run your cold aisle at 70F; set the temperature at 80F or higher -- virtually all equipment manufacturers allow this. For facilities using economizers (we strongly recommend it), running elevated cold aisle temperatures is critical as it enables more days of "free cooling" and more energy savings.

4. Use free cooling: "Free cooling" is removing heat from your facility without using the chiller. This is done by using low temperature ambient air, evaporating water, or using a large thermal reservoir. Chillers are the dominant energy using component of the cooling infrastructure; minimizing their use is typically the largest opportunity for savings. There is no one 'right' way to free cool - but water or air-side economizers are proven and readily available.

5. Optimize power distribution: Minimize power distribution losses by eliminating as many power conversion steps as possible. For the conversion steps you must have, be sure to specify efficient equipment transformers and power distribution units (PDU). One of the largest losses in data center power distribution is from the uninterruptible power supply (UPS); be sure to specify a high efficiency model. Also keep as high a voltage as close to the load as feasible to reduce line losses.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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