We should do the right thing because it's the right thing to do, but it isn't always that simple. There are times when doing the right thing takes longer or costs more than continuing to do things the same old, wrong way. Fortunately, when it comes to going green in the data center, doing the right thing is actually beneficial for companies as well as the environment. There's a measurable positive ROI from investing in energy efficiency and other changes that reduce data centers' environmental impact. Here are seven ways to save money by going green.
1. Reduce data center hardware. Every device in your data center draws power both directly, in the energy it needs to run, and indirectly, in the energy needed to keep it cool. One rule of thumb says that every dollar in hardware costs generates another 50 cents in power costs. The savings from eliminating unneeded hardware and consolidating other systems onto virtual machines can be considerable. In addition to savings on energy costs, virtualization reduces the floor space needed, meaning a smaller cost for real estate.
2. Hit the off switch. Tough uptime goals mean that backup and redundant systems are kept powered up, which means that they generate energy costs even when they aren't used— idle servers can use 60% of the power of fully loaded systems. Modern systems can wake from sleep modes or start cold fast, so keeping them turned off or in standby saves money without impacting your metrics. Even primary systems can be scheduled to be powered on only during business hours when they're actively being used.
3. Dream big, but be realistic. Many data centers are filled with spare capacity—idle machines kept ready in order to handle anticipated growth. All these extra machines add to the energy and cooling requirements in the data center. Save money and energy by making realistic plans for growth. Consider whether virtualization and cloud providers can provide needed capacity when it's needed, rather than buying and powering up machines in advance.
4. Take advantage of incentives. The government encourages industry to go green through incentives that provide support for converting to energy-efficient technologies. Look for programs available in your community, such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) Data Center Incentives Through the Industrial Process and Efficiency Program and ComEd's data-center efficiency incentives in Chicago.
5. Monitor and manage your utilization. Take advantage of vendor software like Active Energy Manager that lets you optimize your power-savings settings. Monitoring data center temperatures can let you identify hot spots and fine-tune your HVAC systems. Take the time to figure out what your raw numbers mean; calculate your data center infrastructure efficiency (DCIE) and power utilization effectiveness (PUE) so that you know how much energy you're wasting and what you gain from the improvements you make.
6. Keep your cool. Ineffective use of air conditioning adds to the energy costs of data centers. Temperatures are often set lower than equipment needs, and cooling devices are often poorly placed. It's much more cost-effective to create hot aisles and cold aisles and manage the temperature in each rather than placing equipment haphazardly and setting a low overall temperature target.
7. Turn the lights off. The first thing that every homeowner does in order to reduce energy costs? Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs. It's simple, easy and effective in data centers, too. In a data center, using energy-efficient bulbs and making sure unneeded lights are turned off doesn’t just save energy that isn't used to power the lights. Lights generate heat also, and the cooling needed to offset that heat is significant.