14 February 2018

Driving data centre efficiency in line with the EU Best Practice

The European Code of Conduct for Data Centres aims to inform and inspire operators and owners to reduce energy consumption in a cost-effective manner.

Data centres consume large amounts of energy to run and maintain computer systems, servers, and other associated high-performance components. The amount of heat generated from this equipment creates an environment where almost half of the overall energy consumed by the Data centre is used to simply cool the hardware. New technologies like digitalisation, the Internet of Things, cloud and mobility, will continue to disrupt the way the IT and Data sector works. Performance requirements are still increasing, and the larger the volume of data, the greater the required cooling capacity and energy consumption.

The European Code of Conduct for Data Centres is a voluntary market transformation programme addressing data centre owners and operators. The Data Centres Code of Conduct has been created in response to increasing energy consumption in data centres and the need to reduce the related environmental, economic and energy supply impacts. The aim is to inform and stimulate operators and owners to reduce energy consumption in a cost-effective manner without hampering the critical function of data centres. The Code of Conduct aims to achieve this by improving understanding of energy demand within the data centre, raising awareness, and recommending energy efficient best practices and targets.

The Data Centres Code of Conduct has been in operation since 2008 and since then more than 300 data centres of different size and IT services have joined. The core of the programme is the commitment by the participant to carry out an initial energy audit to identify the major energy saving opportunities; to prepare an action plan; to implement the action plan; and to monitor energy consumption.

‘At the heart of the Code of Conduct are the Best Practices Guidelines, which indicate the areas for energy efficiency upgrades in data centres, covering day to-day operations, equipment substitution, major refurbishment and new data centre design.’

Cooling of the Data centre is frequently the largest energy loss in the facility and as such represents a significant opportunity to improve efficiency. Luckily, there are innovative methods for increasing the cooling capacity while at the same time reducing the energy consumption. Options include cooling an entire area using precision air-conditioning units, direct server rack cooling or cooling of the entire data centre using a central fan unit. For all these methods, ebm-papst provides innovative fans that ensure the highest level of efficiency and maximum reliability.

One of the most pressing challenges faced by data centre managers is how to keep their aged data centres upgraded and running with a reduced operation cost. New build data centres have the advantage of being able to install the latest high efficiency systems compared to existing sites which must consider energy efficiency improvement and system upgrade plans.

Whether you are signing up to the Code of Conduct, considering best practice (and the environment), your brand or your bottom line, it makes sense for your data centre to be as energy efficient as possible. There have been many estimates of the amount of electricity consumed by data centres, some suggesting that in the UK it could be as high as 4% of total consumption. The EU Code of Conduct for Data Centre Energy Efficiency uses a figure of 56 TWh per year for the whole of the EU and suggests that this will increase to 104 TWh per year by 2020 – That’s just two years away.

On average, around 50% of all electrical energy consumed in a data centre is for cooling. This may be due to the fact that some legacy data centres often have inefficient cooling equipment; typically CRAC units (Computer Room Air Conditioning Units). These tend to be belt driven forward curved AC fans, running at a fixed speed. Constantly increasing data volumes require more cooling capacity, so efficient cooling concepts could provide enormous energy savings.

Inefficient CRAC units can be upgraded by replacing the original AC fans with high efficiency backward curved EC fans. In addition to having a more efficient motor, EC fans also offer the opportunity for simple speed control, which could provide additional energy savings. Recent upgrade projects on a number of CRAC units have shown that energy savings in excess of 50% can be achieved, simply by replacing the AC fans with EC fans. Additional savings of a further 10 - 20% can easily be achieved by reducing the fan speed. With our GreenTech EC fans, the impeller, motor and electronics form a compact unit that is far superior to conventional AC solutions.

Inside a data centre you will find rows and rows of servers storing information on chains of hard drives that all need to run continuously. This equipment can get very hot and therefore has to be cooled constantly. This heat should be removed as efficiently as possible. In order to leverage these changing dynamics and utilise technology as a competitive advantage for the business, significant data centre modernisation often is required.

Information Age neatly describes data centre modernisation as ‘a way of transforming the existing data centre using the latest technologies and trends in order to improve the overall functionality and performance. It is an amalgamation of technologies, processes, skills and services improvements in order to come up with a highly responsive, agile, automated and sustainable data centre environment.’

A number of options are available to achieve this goal, depending on the structural conditions, the technology used and the climate conditions. If you are unsure what to upgrade in your data centre you can learn more here and you can book a free site survey in order to understand more about upgrading your legacy data centre cooling systems with our highly efficient technologies.

Download our Data Centre Brochure here.

Download Best Practice Guidelines for the EU Code of Conduct on Data Centre Energy Efficiency here.