Data Center Sustainability: Energy Department Efficiency Challenge

The most recent TechNavio data center research showed that there has been an increasing focus on data center sustainability, as illustrated by considerable growth in the global green data center market.

TechNavio research stated that the green data center market is currently expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 31.27 percent and this trend will continue through 2018. The organization defines a green data center as a structure that includes design components and practices aimed at maximizing the facility's performance while also reducing its environmental impact.

TechNavio vice president Faisal Ghaus noted that growing concerns related to reducing operating costs and carbon footprints has lead to the adoption of several sustainable solutions, including new cooling practices.

Energy Department Issues Data Center Sustainability Challenge
While TechNavio's findings show an increase in green data center designs, there are still some organizations in the sector that have yet to make energy efficiency improvements. To help encourage these operators, the Energy Department recently announced its Data Center Energy Challenge with a goal of better facilities' energy usage over the next decade.

Groups can volunteer to participate in the program, which asks that operators with multiple facilities improve their data center energy efficiency by 20 percent during the next 10 years. Those with a single data center should improve their efficiency by 25 percent over five years.

"The eBays of the world and the Microsofts and Intels, they get it," said Bill Tschudi, Lawrence Berkeley National Library High-Tech and Industrial Systems Group team leader. "But the large part of the market is not doing that right now. The idea of this is to try to move the whole market."

The Energy Department is still working out the details of the program, namely a strategy to measure effectiveness. The organization is considering utilizing the industry's power usage effectiveness rating, but has not finalized anything as of yet.

Currently, about 10 groups in the private and public sectors have volunteered to participate in the Data Center Energy Challenge. The Energy Department is offering incentives, including Federal Energy Management Program technical assistance and access to training webinars, to spur additional participation.

Tips to Improve Data Center Sustainability
Operators choosing to be involved in the Energy Challenge can leverage several practices to boost their efficiency, including improving their cooling practices. As much as half of the electricity consumed by a data center goes toward powering the cooling structure. Therefore, leveraging arrangements like free air cooling could be considerably beneficial.

These groups can also examine their hardware usage and ensure that servers and other computing equipment are being optimally utilized. Workloads can be shifted to prevent servers from being underused and avoid wasting power resources on components that may not be needed. For example, a virtualization strategy can increase server utilization from 10 percent to 20 percent or as much as 50 percent. Not only does this approach improve electricity usage, it can also free up space in the data center that can be leveraged for future capacity expansion.

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