How Can a Data Center Decrease Operating Costs Without Increasing Risk?
by Josh Anderson
TORONTO, Canada — Whether you’re an operator, manager, or technician, everyone in the data center industry at one point or another has felt the heat to bring their operating costs down. However, not everyone realizes that some of the best solutions are the easiest. We asked industry insiders their thoughts and they agreed that the first steps to take are the most simple.
For example, Anthony Pinkey, Business Development Manager for UPS, Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc. says that one of the best things his firm did was to increase the size of the sheen on our air vents, in order to slow down the amount of cooling of air going through the coil. This very small change allowed his firm to increase efficiency while maintaining temperatures.
Mark Hurley, Solutions Architect (Data Centers) at Schneider Electric shares some of his insight on this same issue. “When I look at an existing data center, and at your profit and loss, and then the costs you can influence, a good majority of the profit and loss expense is the depreciation expense on the capex investment for building that data center out,” he ruminates. “In an existing data center, that’s pretty much a sunk cost. So what else do we have to look at? We can look at maintenance, we can look at salaries, and we can look at how we operate and control the data center.”
The first thing Hurley always asks himself is, what are the low-cost – or better yet, no-cost – things that he can do before he has to start spending any dollars? “Obviously there are simple things at the data center that can be moved,” he explains. “Containment is a good way to reduce energy inefficiency. One of the things that we did that really made a big difference – in light of the latest changes in the Ashbury standards – we used to have perimeter CRAC units that had humidity control in them. They were set to maintain 45%, plus or minus 5% humidity.”
Hurley continues, saying that his firm changed and widened that band, so that it was 45%, plus or minus 15%. “It used to operate 80%-90% of the time, but these new units eliminated all of that fighting – the heating, reheating, etc. to maintain that 45% humidity,” he remembers. “They then virtually ran 0% of the time. There are only a few hours a year that they run now. That’s a great, low-cost – really, no-cost — way to change the way you control your environment.”
Simple changes, however, can still be met with resistance. For example, Hurley admits that raising temperatures is sometimes a battle for operators when working with “old-school” legacy IT operators, but it’s a worthwhile fight, if you truly need to increase energy efficiency. “Raising space temperatures from 72 (the standard in data centers) to 76 – and not going up to 78 or 80, but something reasonable — can be like pulling teeth,” he explains. “but it’s also a great way to save money.”