Green IT: Taking steps towards power efficiency

Green IT: Taking steps towards power efficiency

There are plenty of steps an organisation can take to improve its power efficiency, from a management perspective right up to internal generators, solar panels and smart grid technologies

Power is a major concern in Australia. During the recent election campaign, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, ran in part on the promise that the Labor Government would try to keep power costs down.

For instance, Gillard promised Labor would spend $1 billion to connect renew able energy sources up to the main power grids, which would boost electricity supply.

It would also impose tough emissions standards on any new coal-fired power stations and encourage existing generators to reduce pollution levels.

While the promise was that those measures would not inflate the cost of power unnecessarily, the reality is that power is getting more expensive, and organisations are feeling the squeeze.

That squeeze is starting to tick in the back of the mind when it comes to acquiring IT assets, according to Emerson Network Power national product manager, Mark Deguara.

“When it comes to the actual equipment, people are saying ‘ok, I’m going to put one server against another, and look at what are the benefits of that from an operational perspective and also from an IT perspective'.” It’s part of a more holistic approach organisations are taking to building datacentres. Emerson, which recently opened up a new, working datacentre in North Ryde in Sydney, has had first hand experience of the kinds of roadblocks and energy pitfalls currently facing organisations in the datacentre space.

“They’re not looking at the equipment in isolation,” Deguara said. “They’re thinking: ‘what impact is this going to have on our power, our cooling requirements', and so on. I think that’s what we’re starting to see a lot more of – people are looking at what is the overall impact of doing something. “Energy is getting dearer and dearer and dearer, so it’s starting to gain traction, in our own business, too. It’s not the main driver, but it is an underlying driver – the question of ‘will we get energy efficiency doing this?”

Baby steps

There are plenty of steps an organisation can take to improve its power efficiency, from a management perspective right up to internal generators, solar panels and smart grid technologies. For most, the first stage will be with something relatively simple, such as at the UPS. The big brother to the humble battery is an object of rising popularity amongst IT departments, as it helps soothe symptoms of heavy power demands on organisations.

“It’s not so much the power savings that you’re going to get from products such as ours, but the value is more from managing the limited supply for a lot of demand,” PowerShield sales and marketing director, Malcolm Levin, said.

“That’s the main thing; that the most important machinery in your organisation gets the longest backup time, and one of the things that we’ve incorporated in one of our ranges called the Centurion range, is that we’ve got manageable sockets at the back of the UPS, so it can limit the amount of power that you’re giving to some machines and extent the amount of power that you’re giving to the more critical machines.”

In Australia, that’s important. Power supplies, as a consequence of heavy load, are prone to dropping out. For the same reason that it’s difficult to construct a tier-4 datacentre in Australia, organisations need to take steps to manage the infrastructure and measure power out in the right directions – in other words, load shedding.

“Power is probably accountable for up to 80 per cent of all disruptions because of insufficient power or power outages, surges or spikes,” Levin said. UPS vendors have, over time, added in features to assist in the management of these devices.

PowerShield, for instance, has built in remote management capabilities. If you become aware of a problem in the field as a manager, you won’t need to jump in a car to drive to the location to resolve the problem (an energy saving in itself, albeit of a different kind of energy).

Ultimately, Levin said a UPS solution can show a ROI of as little as three months if it protects the organisation’s IT system from being spiked. “Especially when you’re talking about server room, you need to manage your power properly,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of people trusting you with their businesses and lives. As server rooms become more prominent we see a lot more modular and scalable UPS' that are able to grow with people’s needs.”

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