Greening the datacenter

Greening the datacenter

Gartner estimates that the global ICT industry accounts for around two per cent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. To put that in perspective, it's about the equivalent of the entire aviation industry.

Coupled with the increasing importance of the environment in the lives of individuals and the businesses they work for many, including Gartner itself, believe this is an unwelcome and unsustainable situation. 'Going green' has subsequently become one of the hottest topics in the industry. And resellers are well-positioned to help businesses take control of their datacenter with a view to maximising energy efficiency and minimising environmental impact.

"During the next five years, increasing financial, environmental, legislative and risk-related pressures will force IT organisations to get 'greener'; that is to say, more environmentally sustainable," Gartner research vice-president, Simon Mingay, said. "When enough buyers start demanding it and we get beyond the superficial, being 'less bad' will no longer be anywhere near acceptable."

At the heart of the green focus in IT is the amount of power consumed. Gartner estimates most large enterprise IT departments spend approximately five per cent of their total IT budgets on energy, which could rise by 2-3 times within five years.

"Many datacentres have reached their power and cooling capacity. It's now possible to pack racks with equipment that will require 30,000 or more watts to power and cool," Gartner storage analyst, Phil Sargeant, said. "This compares to only 2000-3000 watts per rack a few years ago. We think it will be in excess of 50,000 watts per rack by 2011 or 2012."

It's against this backdrop that the wider channel community has the opportunity to play a role in defining leaner, greener datacentres via smarter approaches to power use and cooling in the general environment - notably with companies best known for their uninterruptible power supply (UPS) products.

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Gartner forecasts growth in the number of servers worldwide from 14 million units at the end of 2005 to 24 million units by 2011, a compound annual growth rate of nine per cent.

In Australia, growth will be slower, with the total number of servers expected to grow from 120,000 at the end of 2005 to 140,000 by 2011. However, with blade servers growing in popularity, increased rack density will result in a further increase in power demand.

It's high-density equipment, such as blade servers, which demands enormous power for the equipment itself, as well as for air conditioning. Rack enclosures can accommodate 60U-70U, equating to as much as 25kW of power per rack.

"This is the thing that's catching everyone off guard," Emerson Network Power senior marketing manager, Peter Spiteri, said. "Up until recently, before the advent of blade servers, a rack in a datacentre was only 1.5kW-2kW per rack."

Gartner estimates that for every kilowatt of equipment power required, another 1kW-2kW is needed for air conditioning equipment.

"Basically the IT manager has sat there and realized he can fit all these blades into one chassis, but now we're getting up to over 20kW in one rack. Consider that a traditional computer room's air conditioning maxes out around 4kW a rack," Spiteri said. "The heat of high-density computing is the single greatest issue in the datacentre."

Gartner research suggests that equipment manufacturers will develop more-energy-efficient enclosures, processors and cooling solutions, which will address the heat/cooling problem in the longer term. These innovations will begin to mitigate the power cooling problem to the point where, by 2011, the datacentre will become operationally and energy efficient.

In the shorter term, however, the heat/power problem will become an increasingly important issue that datacentre managers need to address. Half of today's datacentres will have insuffi cient power and cooling capacity to meet the demands of high-density equipment in two years.

"APC grew up by providing high availability if power happened to go down, but now it's all about the right cooling in the right place," APC general manager, Gordon Makryllos, said "Datacentres aren't going down because of power anymore, but cooling."

Most traditional datacentres were provisioned to supply between 40W-60W per square foot, while densities of 20kW-25kW per rack would require power and cooling capacity of 200W- 300W per square foot - a level that exceeds acceptable efficiency or cost levels.

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