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Make Your Data Centre More Environmentally-Friendly in Five Easy Steps

Feb 11, 2008
From environmentalists and regulators, to CIOs and data centre managers, the 'green' data centre is now firmly on the agenda. Rightly so, with an average rate of energy consumption around 50 times greater than its equivalent in office space, the data centre offers a clear opportunity to save energy and reduce carbon emissions.

The industry is taking its energy and environmental issues seriously and a number of scenarios for more environmentally-friendly data centre design and more energy-efficient hardware solutions were presented.

However, in our rush to embrace the future, we should not forget that most data centre managers do not have the opportunity of a new build or major upgrade to find ways of reducing energy consumption or CO2 emissions - they have to work with the data centre and IT equipment they've got.

An audit of a data centre will usually identify pragmatic opportunities for environmental 'quick wins'. These can make an immediate difference to the data centre's CO2 footprint and are also a good foundation for many of the more strategic, longer term, environmental initiatives that were debated at the Datacentre Energy Conference.

5 environmental 'quick wins' in the data centre

1 - Purchasing Power:
Adopting green criteria as part of the energy purchasing policy is an easy step - wind, wave or solar power does not need to be on site, it can be fed into the grid from anywhere from a 'green' energy supplier. Furthermore, if enough companies move their business to green energy suppliers, the traditional energy companies will take notice and adopt more renewables.

As an organisation you could look to becoming carbon neutral through the purchase of Carbon Offsets. A typical tree planting or wind farm project could save up 30,000 tonnes of carbon and these can be bought as carbon credits to match and neutralise your data centre's own carbon emissions.

2 - Use the 'off switch':
Most of us have grown up with habits based around plentiful, cheap energy. Changing these habits and getting used to turning off devices not in use will make a significant impact on data centre power consumption. Keeping data centres lit up 24/7 is unnecessary.

Manage lighting with the use of low energy bulbs within controlled zones. Furthermore, many servers remain switched on, even when they are not in use. An average PC switched on for 24 hours per day, 220 days per year will be responsible for up to a tonne of CO2 over a 3-year period and cost 53 pounds per year in electricity. This can be changed, literally, at the flick of a switch.

3 - Recycle:
The average data centre produces in excess of 5 tonnes of cardboard and paper rubbish each year, so recycling can be a 'quick win'. Also, take positive steps to reduce the problem at source by encouraging suppliers to reduce unnecessary packaging. Think about ways of recycling IT equipment. An estimated 1.5 million computers are buried in landfill sites every year - you wonder how many telephone handsets are buried too!

Question whether memory can be re-deployed, and whether printer cartridges, hard disks, cables, and racks be re-used or recycled. Of course, UPS batteries must be recycled but look for other opportunities around the data centre - do damaged floor or ceiling tiles have to be sent to landfill?

4 - Rethink:
Challenge long established assumptions. For example, application developers tend to specify new equipment to support their software. However, an examination of the actual, rather than perceived, load may reveal a processor utilisation of around 10-20%.

If this is the case, consider combining non-critical applications on a single server. There is a major opportunity with test/development servers which could be switched off when they are not in use. Typically this is not the case.

5 - Just do it:
A few well executed actions are worth more than any number of well intentioned plans. Involve your people, develop a strategy with them, and get started with the simple stuff.

The greening of the data centre can start now by implementing a few easily achievable actions - encourage your staff and your management along this road with you and the impact could be very surprising.
About the Author
Shaun Parker has a business designing and creating data centres for businesses. To find out more information on data centres visit http://www.migrationsolutions.com
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