Over the past two decades, I have seen the data center industry evolve from a near-zero interest in energy and resource efficiency to a hyper focus by some operators. Today’s data centers are quite stratified when it comes to efficiency. At the top of the list, from an energy efficiency perspective, are the “internet giant” data centers owned and operated by global companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. Then come the many colocation data centers that support the IT needs of corporations who choose to outsource a part of their IT infrastructure. The least energy-efficient data centers tend to be large corporate data centers and the many thousands of small and medium-size data centers that support smaller businesses and the branch offices of large enterprises. These range between 100 and 1000kW in size.
Although the internet giants have achieved some ultra-high efficiencies within their million square foot data center facilities, reports indicate that these cloud server farms are responsible for only a small percentage of total data center energy consumption in the US, and are not representative of how the average data center operates. Thus, the data center industry as a whole has room to increase efficiency which will then enhance corporate bottom lines as a result of reduced OpEx costs.
According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), US data center annual electricity consumption is projected to increase to approximately 73 billion kWh by 2020. Such consumption costs U.S. businesses $8 billion per year in electricity bills and produces the equivalent of nearly 70 million metric tons of annual carbon emissions. LBNL originally projected data center energy consumption to grow exponentially, but a focus on Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE)-driven facility efficiency, software virtualization, and cloud computing has helped slow the energy consumption trend.
I am proud to say that Schneider Electric has been at the forefront of bringing down PUE with innovative, efficient facility solutions; from 96% efficient Silcon UPS in 1999, Hot Aisle Containment and InRow cooling in 2004 and most recently with EcoFlair Air Economizers. But more work needs to be done. Most data centers, as currently designed and constructed, still waste a significant portion of the energy they consume.
The Open Compute Project (OCP) Foundation has a mission to enable the delivery of the most efficient server, storage, and data center hardware designs for scalable computing. OCP, over its short history, has been quite successful in its efforts to share member best practices for designing and building servers that take up less space and consume less energy. Thus far, however, the major beneficiaries have been Internet giants who can leverage their economies of scale to cut costs by buying and deploying huge quantities of these scaled down, high-efficiency servers. The challenge for all others in the data center industry has been access to these solutions within manageable volumes and at price points that make economic sense. Efforts are now underway to “spread the wealth” of data center IT efficiency by allowing more companies to access channels and supply chains that can enable them to purchase OCP products in much smaller and more affordable quantities.
Schneider Electric: The new OCP Platinum member
As OCP’s newest Platinum-level member, Schneider Electric has been recognized for years across industries as the global specialist in energy management. Each year we invest millions of dollars in R&D to produce highly efficient power distribution equipment, energy and building management software, and both data center white space (scalable racks, precision air conditioning systems, power distribution units, power supply units, battery backup technologies) and gray space (switchgear, breaker, transformer, chiller and air economizer technologies) solutions. Affiliated Schneider Electric brands in the data center marketplace include APC and Square D.
In addition to high-efficiency digitized products, Schneider Electric has established a reputation for managing strong global supply chains and distribution channels. As an OCP Platinum member, we can help open new distribution channels for organizations of any size, hoping to purchase high efficiency OCP solutions.
Schneider Electric has been an active OCP community member since 2014. Activities include the presentation of a Data Center Facility Operations Maturity Model and the publication of research on open hardware data center costs via a “TradeOff Tool”, white paper and a full facility reference design. As a Platinum OCP member, we will be supporting open hardware installations with solutions like HyperPod, a rack-ready system which enables hybrid IT deployments, and open APIs within our EcoStruxure IT platform. We are also planning future product and design contributions.
Learn more about OCP and Schneider Electric’s involvement at the London “Zettastructure” Data Center Dynamics conference (and the OCP Engineering Data Center Project Workshop) to be held in London on November 7 and 8.
 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “United States Data Center Energy Usage Report,” June, 2016
 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency: Public Law 109-431,” August 2007