The looming energy crisis is a black spot for industries where power consumption is commonly excessive and difficult to manage, the chief example being modern data centers. These facilities consume 10 to 50 times more energy per floor space than your average office building. While achieving an energy-efficient data center is possible, even the most sophisticated energy management initiatives are not without difficulties.
One of the best solutions is to adopt emerging technologies — which require using even more energy, albeit efficiency — such as the Internet of Things and connected sensors. A quick review is necessary to understand how they can help better reduce, mitigate and manage power consumption.
1. Equipment Health Supervision
Data center energy management involves the entire facility wall to wall. Indeed, the server hardware and related systems are mission-critical, which calls for monitoring and routinely servicing them to keep them operating efficiencies. Yet, it’s not the only equipment that needs maintenance in this way.
Other considerations include the climate control and cooling technologies, access control and security solutions, surveillance gear, and extra hardware like power components. Big-ticket items like power transformers can fail prematurely or even more frequently when no one keeps them in shape.
This has a significant influence on the performance and utilization for the entire facility. Power events can severely hammer electronics, making them work harder than necessary or underutilizing them. Other factors may also play roles, like the quality or craftsmanship of the components, the materials they’re made of, and how often they receive maintenance.
IoT can undoubtedly help with this by monitoring various performance and operational metrics, reporting appropriately, or identifying points of failure. It’s all achieved through data analytics, which connected sensors constantly document and share.
2. Real-Time Power Monitoring
IoT improves data center energy management in several ways. Real-time monitoring is possible, with automated alerts and notifications for custom thresholds. It allows administrators to make adjustments, creating an immediate change in consumption or efficiency. It steers the operation to more efficient utilization over time, rather than making sweeping alterations all at once.
For example, when energy usage surpasses a particular limit, the facility can take steps to bring it back down to more reasonable levels, perhaps by turning off equipment or reducing the load on various servers.
It’s possible to remotely monitor power usage because IoT solutions collect and report this data through a connected system, whether an intranet or not. Since data centers run 24/7 yet may not have people there the entire time, this creates more opportunities to check in on utilization during odd hours.
3. Temperature and Humidity Controls
It’s no secret that data centers must remain within a specific temperature and humidity range, even though servers and computer hardware generate lots of heat while under heavy loads.
Typically, the go-to practice is to leave air conditioning and cooling systems running indefinitely, which keeps the equipment cool at all times and prolongs the hardware’s life. This practice also consumes excessive energy, especially depending on the size and efficiency of the cooling technologies.
Smart sensors can better monitor temps and levels throughout a facility. They protect the equipment, ensuring temperature and humidity remain within acceptable ranges. But it also enables a more efficient cooling solution that’s not always running 24/7, but only when necessary. Connected sensors are much more accurate than typical thermostats and can judge temps right at a point of concern — nearby or within the server room itself, for example.
Indeed, many of today’s data center cooling solutions are top-of-the-line or state-of-the-art. Still, smart technology undoubtedly enables more intelligent operations — even more so when utilizing AI or machine learning-powered technologies. Neural networks and machine learning systems are already helping reduce manufacturing costs and improve efficiency in many other industries.
4. Airflow Management
Achieving the proper airflow within server rooms, around racks, and inside them is just as crucial to performance and efficiency as the air-cooling systems themselves. Making sure that heat dissipates and cool air is flowing in can directly impact how hard servers work and how much energy they consume.
Efficient cooling is critical for server management. If they get too hot, you risk blowing the CPU. While those are replaceable, the blowout could easily damage other parts of the server. Motherboards, power supplies, and memory could all lose strength in the event of overheating. That is, if they didn’t already suffer extensive enough damage along with the CPU.
Airflow management technologies can help measure these profiles and spearhead the control systems to force recirculation. Again, these technologies could benefit from AI and machine learning support, which use the inflow of data to make split-second virtual decisions — in this case, to optimize airflow.
5. Hardware Load Optimization
When a server is under a heavy load, it consumes more energy. Optimizing server usage is vital because of this. Data centers must offset loads to backup servers and hardware, reduce the stress across the board and create a more efficient system. This lowers the heat generated by servers, reduces energy usage, and improves performance.
However, many centers experience server sprawl. They use too many inefficient servers to do the job of one or two. By equipping these systems with intelligent PDUs, administrators can tap into more accurate outlet level metering with automation solutions and real-time alerts.
Coupled with the appropriate DCIM software solutions, PDUs create “smart” racks that quickly and effectively report utilization rates, making it much easier to identify idle servers. Of course, this also helps create a more energy-efficient data center thanks to balanced hardware utilization.
Becoming Sustainable Through Better Energy Management
As sustainability and green initiatives become more crucial, energy consumption rears its ugly head. Reducing both carbon costs and consumption is imperative for improving company efficiency, boosting server performance, reducing associated costs, and — most importantly — creating a more sustainable operation that’s better for the surrounding environment.
Someday soon, creating a more energy-efficient data center will be vital to achieving success. Emerging technologies like IoT and connected sensors are the key to optimized data center energy management. It’s time to start thinking about them and planning for their implementation.