Data Centres have become Cooler. No Really

Data Centres have become Cooler. No Really

Data centres are expensive. Whether you have one in-house or have chosen to outsource, there is a fighting chance that it carries a big pound sign. While energy companies have been criticised for their role in pushing up household bills, the financial impact on businesses has been something companies of all sizes have had to tackle.

It is also a cost that has been traditionally difficult to predict. Thankfully, the world has moved on. There has been an emergence of smarter, more efficient data centres that mitigate the traditional risks faced by the CFO.

PUE – What it is and why it matters

PUE (power usage effectiveness) is a measure of how efficiently a data centre uses energy. In other words, how many kilowatts of power it takes to support an equivalent kilowatt of technology.

PUE can be your new best friend because it provides visibility on how well the data centre is running, which translates to how much it costs you in pounds and pence. It can also be your enemy if you don’t understand how the figures are calculated and what is included in the figures you are being ‘sold’ – are your Teams and/or suppliers calculating the real efficiency of the data centre? Do they know how to?

To give some perspective and real numbers, we find most companies tend to run at a PUE of 2.5 or higher. If you could attain a PUE of 1.2, there is potential to achieve savings of around £1.2 million, per megawatt, per year. From an environmental perspective, that’s 6,000 tonnes of carbon that you could potentially be taxed on.

Operating an efficient data centre is better for business. We know that we can’t control energy prices but you can control how much you use and how it’s measured.

It can be compared to running a car – you can’t control the price of petrol, but you can choose whether you buy a car which does 50 miles to the gallon or one that does just 15.

Efficiency needs a modern footprint to deliver. That is the role of today’s data centre.

When I speak with my CFO peers, the issue of predictability is a recurring theme. If you underperform as a company you have some serious questions to answer. Over perform and it looks like you’re not in control. If the role of the data centre is critical to the business, then ensuring your PUE is fixed will provide you with a better method to measure and predict your operating cost. By ‘fixing’, the data centre company is taking the risk of an unexpected efficiency reduction rather than passing on the associated cost.

Not everyone is a data centre expert

Once upon a time, the data centre itself was once viewed as a decision owned by the IT department but technology budgets are on the rise and unfortunately contain the sort of variables that have the potential to spiral out of control.

But as technology has become one of many considerations for a CFO, property, running costs, maintenance and resourcing all now play a large part in their understanding of all the costs involved in data centre IT. Taking into account the risk components and having a clear view on the capital and operational expenditure are all important factors in your decision making.

But not everyone is a data centre specialist. Why would you be? You have business to run. So, to provide some guidance, here are the top five questions to ask if you have already outsourced or are considering it as an option:

  1. How are your providers coping with rising energy prices and what are their strategies to safeguarding any long-term investment that you’re considering?
  2. What is their stability?
  3. How financially secure is the data centre itself and what kind of investment do they personally have?
  4. Do they own the land themselves or are they leasing it? This affects both stability and cost.
  5. Lastly and perhaps most poignantly, what happens once you sign on the dotted line? Does their support and interest end there?

The real value will come down to the type of people that you engage with. Will they work with you to solve your problems? Will they proactively help you to tackle issues like rising energy costs and provide a commitment to continuous improvement?

I certainly hope so.

Data centre efficiency has changed beyond measure and it will continue to evolve. It used to be that predictable wasn’t cool…

Well, times have changed.

Ian Perryment is the Finance Director of Ark Data Centres