October 10, 2006 9:00 PM PDT

Data centers eye power costs

Energy considerations are playing into data center buying decisions, according to a survey commissioned by Sun Microsystems.

Conducted by Harris Interactive, the study found that IT executives are increasingly aware of energy, with three quarters of the nearly 200 executives queried saying energy efficiency has become a buying priority.

David Douglas David Douglas

On the other hand, the study found that many IT directors--38 percent of respondents--do not know how much they are spending on electricity.

"There are people out there running out of power in their data centers and thinking about energy but have not yet moved to the next stage--managing power consumption, which is a sizable piece of their budget," said David Douglas, Sun's vice president of eco-responsibility.

The Sun-commissioned study validates Sun's decision to focus on energy efficiency in its server product design and marketing, said Douglas, who was named to his position about six months ago.

Internally, the company has also taken a number of energy-saving steps, such as reducing energy consumption of its own data centers and having employees work at home.

He said the majority of technology consumers are driven by practical concerns in regards to energy rather than environmental goals.

For example, many companies are maxing out the power equipment in their data centers, which is needed to run and cool computing gear. Some companies spend nearly 20 percent of their IT budget on electricity, Douglas said.

A very small percentage of respondents, comprised of very large corporations, is energy-conscious for both economic and environmental reasons, he said. These companies measure their "carbon footprint," or the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that they emit.

Sun is working on a number of data center energy-saving initiatives that could be offered as products.

The company is looking at ways to bring cooling devices closer to the computing gear that generates the most heat, Douglas said.

It is also looking at ways that virtualization can be used, he added. Virtualization technology will allow customers to potentially power down under-used resources and consolidate the computing load on other servers, Douglas said.

In addition, Sun is in negotiations with several utility providers in the United States to replicate a rebate program around Sun servers that the company established with California's Pacific Gas and Electric, he said.

See more CNET content tagged:
data center, Sun Microsystems Inc., energy, computing, virtualization

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Air Conditioning Savings
For those interested in the topic of energy for air conditioning in
a data center this will be of special interest.

In 1994 Martin Marietta did a study for the FAA,  Evaluation of
Electromechanical Sub-Flooring Alternatives for New TRACONS.
The study was for a 17,135 square foot room, with a grand total
heat load of 1,203,559 Btu/hr or 100.3 tons

The reason for this evaluation was that previously data centers
were constructed using single level raised floors, under which
were all of the high and low voltage wiring, fire suppression
systems, reference grids and applicable chilled water lines. It
didnt take long for cables to accumulate under the floor, as if a
beaver were building a dam, to the point where air could not be
distributed efficiently to the computer equipment. The solution
in many data centers was to add additional package down flow
air conditioning units (very expensive to own and operate).
Leading to more expense and more energy consumption.

A new product had been introduced to the market that sub-
divided the under floor horizontally into 2 or 3 levels to isolate
the air from the low and high voltage wires, allowing far better
distribution of air, which allowed the use of central station air
conditioning rather than down flow units.

The study compared 5 scenarios, taking into consideration initial
equipment cost, floor space, maintenance, energy and life-cycle
costs. Without getting into all the details of this report the
energy savings alone are quite impressive:

Alt 1 Alt 2 Alt 3 Alt 4 Alt 5
Demand (kw) 434 439 311 131 70
kWh/year 2,777,800 3,552,004 2,127,891 929.882 660,358

The costs (keep in mind this was in 1994) were as follows:

Alt 1 Alt 2 Alt 3 Alt 4 Alt 5
Initial Costs 1,288,35 1,347,198 1,1,42,129 1,250.967
Annual Recurring Costs 45,533 44,319 25,358 11,734
Annual Energy Costs 163,938 209,629 125,582 54,997
Total Life-Cycle Costs 4,704,867 5,504,504 3,582,139
2,304,851 3,279,396

Overall, it is undeniably clear that using the multi-level floor was
far superior in all aspects of owning and operating a data center.
These are just the highlights of a 100+ page study.
Posted by WmPoet (3 comments )
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