Best practices for lowering power usage

Best practices for lowering power usage

What can you do to increase efficiency?

Keeping the lights on and the servers running in the data center is expensive, to say the least. Electricity is obviously a necessity in this industry. Yet, many data facilities aren't as efficient as they could be. Power usage needs to be tightly monitored, and yet some administrators don't really know where to start.

Let's take a look at a couple of the best ways data center officials can work towards increasing energy efficiency:

"Google's data center in Belgium can reach a sweltering 95 degrees Fahrenheit."

Increase server room temperature

Before trying anything else, one of the simplest ways to go about lowering power usage in the data center is to turn up the server room temperature if it's very low. However, just because this process is simple doesn't make it easy. Administrators can't simply turn up the thermostat and hope for the best.

Data center equipment can overheat quickly, and officials can't rely on their staff to mitigate a problem before it gets out of hand. A good example of how quickly this kind of issue can escalate is an overheating incident that affected Microsoft's Hotmail services. A failed firmware update caused a heat spike that occurred so quickly that workers couldn't intervene before safeguards kicked in.

Clearly, any sort of temperature increase needs to be done carefully. That said, this doesn't mean that data center administrators should be wary of such change. Google's data center in Belgium can reach a sweltering 95 degrees Fahrenheit, well above what a human can comfortably withstand for a long period of time. While this has increased the facility's efficiency, such a drastically high temperature isn't recommended for everyone.

Anyone wishing to increase data center temperature should begin by consulting the data center temperature guide released by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The group has stated that most servers shouldn't be subjected to temperatures above 80.6 degrees F, although as Google's Belgium facility shows, this isn't a hard rule.

After that, it is imperative that key officials keep a close eye on how data center cooling systems are handing the increase by intently monitoring server room temperature. Temperature monitoring systems from Geist can allow administrators to keep a tight hold over the heat produced by equipment. What's more, a high temperature alarm can be sent directly to important employees that can work to mitigate the risk of an overheating event if the data room gets too hot.

Data center temperature must be adjusted carefully. Keeping the data center at the right temperature is a constant, strategic battle.

Find comatose servers

Once a data center temperature increase has been hashed out, it's time to go hunting for comatose servers. A server is considered comatose when it hasn't been used for computing or to transfer data within the last six months. These machines continue to suck up power – albeit less than their more useful counterparts – while providing absolutely nothing to the data center or its clients. 

While just the idea of a comatose server might be surprising to some IT workers, perhaps the most shocking part of this whole situation is how widespread the problem is. Jonathan Koomey, a researcher at Stanford University, teamed up with consulting firm Anthesis Group to discover just how many of these machines existed. The group found that roughly 30 percent of servers can be considered comatose, or "zombie" server. 

This is a huge problem that simply cannot be ignored by administrators wishing to increase power efficiency in their facilities. That said, there's another simple solution to this. Geist's power monitoring devices allow officials the ability to see where power is going and which servers are the biggest energy hogs. 

In addition, this can be used to track down servers that are using the bare minimum amount of electricity to stay alive. Hunting down the comatose servers in the data center may not be fun, but it will make a huge difference in terms of energy efficiency.