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DCIM software: A must-have for dramatically increasing energy efficiency in the data centre space

DCIM software: A must-have for dramatically increasing energy efficiency in the data centre space

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Herman Chan, President, Sunbird Software, offers his best practice advice on how organisations can take steps to reduce their carbon footprint and why DCIM software is key to achieving this.

What role does the data centre industry have in contributing to global energy usage and how are DC operators tackling this?

The data centre industry is estimated to be responsible for somewhere between 2-3% of all global energy consumption. With energy-hungry technology like 5G mobile networks, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence still just taking off, data centre demand is likely to continue to grow for some time.

As customers, governments and industry regulators push for increased social responsibility, many data centre operators now have corporate sustainability goals to meet. In many cases, organisations have set goals to be carbon neutral — or even carbon negative — by as early as 2030.

To meet their corporate sustainability goals, data centre operators are now laser-focused on saving energy, maximising the utilisation of their existing footprint, reporting on energy efficiency metrics and following best practices for sustainability.

What are some of the steps DC operators can take to reduce their carbon footprint?

There are tried-and-true best practices that can help any data centre operator reduce their carbon footprint.

First, operators should instrument their data centre with meters and sensors to collect data on their power and environment. This data is critical for making the most informed energy management decisions.

Raising the temperature is one simple way to immediately increase efficiency. Modern equipment can handle warmer environments, but many operators play it safe and keep temperatures cool. However, they can reduce energy consumption by 4-5% for every 1°F increase in server inlet temperature.

Separating cold supply air from hot exhaust air via hot/cold aisle containment can improve energy efficiency by up to 40% compared to an uncontained environment.

Minimising bypass airflow improves cooling efficiency. Materials like blanking panels and raised floor grommets are cost-effective and easy to implement solutions that can achieve small but noticeable energy savings.

Up to 30% of servers in a data centre may be ghost servers that consume energy but perform no useful function. Ghost servers, along with power hogs, should be identified and decommissioned, virtualised, or replaced with more efficient equipment.

Reusing and recycling equipment is encouraged to reduce the amount of unnecessary carbon emissions caused by the equipment manufacturing process.

Renewable energy such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power may be purchased or generated onsite to replace dependence on fossil fuels. These energy sources continue to become more cost-effective every year.

Finally, DCIM software is a must-have to measure, trend and report on energy efficiency metrics, maximise the utilisation of existing resources to defer wasteful new buildouts, and drive more energy-efficient behaviour.

Can DC operators ever expect to balance availability/reliability with sustainability – and if so, how?

It’s a common concern that increasing sustainability comes at the expense of increased risk to availability and reliability, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

With DCIM software, operators can rest assured that their sustainability initiatives aren’t introducing risk with real-time power and environment monitoring capabilities.

Users can set warning and critical thresholds on rack loads, inlet loads, circuit breaker loads, three-phase balance, temperature and humidity. When a threshold is violated, the user is automatically alerted so they can remediate any issue before it causes a serious problem.

Power and environment monitoring helps protect sustainability initiatives from causing downtime, losing redundancy, forming hot spots and causing other conditions that may impact services.

How can DCIM help reduce energy consumption?

There are many ways DCIM software helps reduce energy consumption. First, DCIM software allows operators to measure, trend and report on energy consumption so they have the data they need to make more informed decisions.

With DCIM software, live measured readings from meters and sensors are transformed into actionable insights by trending and forecasting power and environmental metrics so operators know where they are and where they’re going.

Real-time charts and reports like PUE, carbon footprint, temperature per cabinet, delta-T per cabinet and stranded power capacity help measure, compare and improve energy efficiency.

Energy cost reports can be generated by data centre, business unit, customer, or service/application to identify power hogs and eliminate human error.

Next, DCIM software enables operators to dramatically increase energy efficiency.

Built-in cooling charts ensure compliance with manufacturer and industry-accepted temperature and humidity recommendations (e.g., ASHRAE) so operators can save energy by safely increasing temperature set points.

Customer bill back reports accurately allocate energy costs across the organisation to drive energy-efficient behaviour from internal and external customers.

Ghost servers and power hogs can be easily identified so operators can decommission them, replace them with more efficient hardware, or virtualise them.

Last, DCIM software enables operators to maximise the utilisation of their existing footprint so they can defer buildouts of power-hungry cabinets or even new data centres.

With the Auto Power Budget feature, operators can automatically calculate power budget profiles for each device instance (e.g., make/model of a server) based on trended actual power utilisation. Customers like Comcast and eBay report improvements in rack power utilisation by as high as 40% due to this ability.

Operators can easily find and reserve the perfect place to deploy new equipment to maximise the utilisation of cabinet space resources and delay wasteful new buildouts.

And with power and environment monitoring with thresholds and alerts, operators are the first to know of conditions that may impact services so they can reduce the risk of downtime caused by energy efficiency initiatives.

How is Sunbird changing the way data centres are being managed?

Customers tell us that first-generation DCIM tools are difficult to use, slow to deploy and lack integration, and point tools like Excel and Visio are not shareable or scalable. Sunbird is solving these pain points with second-generation DCIM.

Second-generation DCIM dramatically simplifies data centre management via:

  • Super-fast deployments. Deployment takes half the time of first-generation tools, requires significantly fewer resources and provides fast RoI.
  • Completeness of capabilities. Depth of functionality covers asset, capacity, change, energy, power, environment, security, connectivity, visualisation and business intelligence and analytics.
  • Zero-configuration analytics. Pre-built dashboards, charts, reports and visual analytics come out of the box, requiring no tedious configuration effort.
  • Automation via integration. A complete set of free APIs and connectors enable automation to save time, improve data accuracy and simplify data sharing.
  • Compatibility with what you have. Industry-standard protocols provide broad compatibility with virtually all third-party meters, sensors and software.
  • Extreme scalability. Enterprise-class scalability that can handle millions of assets, billions of data points per day and thousands of users.
  • Ease of use. Elegant design that requires fewer clicks, fewer mouse movements and is intuitive to use.
  • Data-driven collaboration. Shared dashboards and team views break down organisational silos and encourage information sharing.
  • AI and Machine Learning. Machine Learning technology enables automatic power capacity planning to increase the efficiency of capacity utilisation.

How do your core company values align with your focus on sustainability practices and achieving net zero carbon by 2030?

Sustainability is very important to us. Our product is made to help data centre managers do more with less and we want to support them in their efforts to become carbon neutral.

Recently, we’ve been hearing from many data centre managers that they want to reduce their carbon footprint and we’re happy to have a solution that can help them achieve that goal easier, faster and with less risk.

Our measure of success is our customers’ success and our product roadmap is developed in partnership with customers in our global user group programme. We work together to create a solution that will help them increase energy efficiency and maximise the utilisation of their existing resources.

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