Enhancing energy efficiency in data centers and optimizing PUE with DCIM

Man in data center

Infrastructure power needs can drive up operating costs, but there’s no single trick to get this in order and achieve an energy-efficient data center. However, if you still want to enhance energy efficiency in data centers, there are several small things that can significantly lower power usage. In this blog, we’d dive deep into it and figure out how to optimize Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) with DCIM and, in turn, heighten energy efficiency.

As our demand for the internet and smart technologies continues to skyrocket, experts believe that by the year 2025, the millennials, at least in the developed nations, will have at least one interaction with a data center every 18 seconds! This shows people’s burgeoning demand for internet services. This, in turn, has heightened power usage within the information industry. Thus, it’s vital for us to lower the power usage in data centers and implement better energy-efficient solutions.

How is power consumption efficiency measured in data centers?

Power consumption performance in data centers is measured in PUE or Power Usage Effectiveness. It is a standard efficiency metric, the formula for which can be stated as – energy usage by the total facility divided by energy usage by IT equipment.

Herein, the energy usage by the total facility encompasses the data center facility and includes all loads, including IT equipment, lighting systems, cooling systems, power delivery components, and more. On the other hand, the energy usage by IT equipment encompasses energy fed to compute, network and storage equipment, including the likes of workstations, KVM switches, laptops, monitors, and more.

In an ideal case, PUE is 1.0, i.e., 100% efficiency. In such a case, all consumed energy is only by IT equipment, and there’s no power loss. However, this is literally impossible to achieve.

According to data from the Uptime Institute, the average annual PUE globally in 2021 was 1.57. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the global average PUE has remained unchanged since 2018, hovering around 1.60. This lack of progress is likely due to the considerable expenses and intricate technological challenges associated with enhancing efficiency in aging data centers.

In addition to PUE, some alternative metrics in use include PUErecycled and Energy Reuse Effectiveness (ERE). These track the net energy consumption of the data center by factoring in reused energy.

Can power monitoring and DCIM actually lower PUE?

In order to be cost-effective and increasingly efficient, data centers are constantly exposed to development and change. Data centers are constantly in flux – trying to be innovative and environmentally conscious, with inventory, energy management techniques, and cabling infrastructure, just to name a few. All this, together, helps companies achieve lower costs and heightened efficiency. But the first step to it all is PUE.

Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) has a substantial bearing on lowering the Power Usage Effectiveness. By leveraging infrastructure management solutions, data centers can consolidate their information and gain insights into areas that require modifications. DCIM software solutions offer a comprehensive platform for conducting analysis, evaluating metrics, and assessing performance results for both IT and facility capacities. The fact that these software tools integrate seamlessly to provide a holistic view of the data center’s operations makes them all the more useful.

  • PUE gauge: One of the strongest suits of DCIM is to access data easily. As the name implies, the PUE gauge determines how effective or ineffective changes are that are being brought in/ implemented and the plan of action for the future.
  • Capacity planning: Organizations have the opportunity to optimize their maximum capacity, ideal placements, and explore inventive solutions tailored to specific spaces. DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) can provide valuable insights into the unique circumstances of each data center, enabling enhanced capacity planning and decision-making.
  • Mapping: Energy efficiency can be significantly influenced by the placement and layout of the heating and cooling airflow systems. Exploring alternate options to address temperature regulation can lead to substantial reductions in energy consumption. By experimenting with innovative approaches, data centers can effectively optimize their energy usage.
  • Elimination: Certain servers within a data center may exhibit inefficiency, and their removal can significantly reduce overall energy consumption, leading to a noteworthy impact on Power Usage Effectiveness. DCIM solutions can play a crucial role in swiftly identifying and addressing these inefficiencies, allowing companies to locate and handle such server-related issues efficiently.

Tackling PUE and energy metering through DCIM

To put it simply, the PUE metric calculates how much the data center’s overall energy use supports IT equipment. It is a ratio of the total power input to the IT load power. When DCIM software works in tandem with intelligent rack power distribution units, environmental sensors, and branch circuit monitoring systems, it provides useful and accurate data to analyze as well as track PUE. Over the years, DCIM softwares have grown in popularity owing to its success in optimizing energy consumption and lowering data center operational costs.

The true strength of modern DCIM lies in its ability to analyze a data center’s current and past states, providing valuable insights into its overall health. DCIM allows for a comprehensive understanding of electricity consumption throughout the power chain and individual servers. It continuously monitors environmental conditions and provides information on available power capacity in specific aisles or cabinets. DCIM dashboards enhance visibility and comprehension of all components and interdependencies within the distributed infrastructure.

However, DCIM analytics can only be as effective as the quality of data fed into the system. To meet DCOI (Data Center Optimization Initiative) guidelines, advanced energy metering solutions, such as intelligent rack power distribution units (iPDUs) and branch circuit metering systems, are recommended. Collecting baseline information through these solutions is crucial for accurate tracking of energy capacity and utilization, which directly ties into PUE calculations and analytics.

iPDUs equipped with outlet-level metering enable real-time monitoring of power consumption by IT devices, both instantaneously and over specific periods. This capability helps identify ghost servers and reduce energy waste, bringing data centers closer to achieving their PUE objectives.

Likewise, a branch circuit monitoring system captures the power and environmental data at the facility level, providing information on real-time and historical electrical capacity and power usage at various points such as panelboards, remote power panels,  floor PDUs, and overhead busways. This system enables data centers to introduce metering in previously unmonitored areas and fully leverage their existing infrastructure.

Furthermore, data from environmental sensors play a vital role in DCIM software by identifying potential hotspots and areas with inefficient cooling. This information is invaluable for improving PUE and optimizing overall data center performance.

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