Considering the Power and Cooling Implications of Virtual Server Projects

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As anyone who has been there can tell you, virtualization reduces the number of physical servers you have in your data center, often dramatically. While you may think that will also reduce your power and cooling requirements, from our experience that’s not necessarily the case.

What we can say pretty definitively is that virtualization will change your power and cooling requirements. If you think about what’s happening with your infrastructure, it’s easy to see why.

Let’s say you had 1000 servers in your data center before you started virtualizing, each running at about 25% utilization. At that rate, the servers aren’t throwing off all that much heat and it’s pretty well distributed throughout the racks where the servers live.

Now you start virtualizing. For the sake of argument, let’s say you go whole hog, and you shove those 1000 servers out the door. In their place, you install some high-density blade servers, or something along the lines of the Cisco Unified Computing System, which integrates server, network and I/O resources into a single system.  Or maybe you even step that up a notch and go with the Flexpod architecture, which includes Cisco UCS along with storage components from NetApp and Cisco switches.

Now you will indeed have far fewer physical servers, taking up fraction of the space those 1,000 servers did. But you will also have a dramatically different heat profile in your data center. Instead of having the heat output spread pretty evenly, it will now be concentrated on the racks holding the blade servers, Cisco UCS and/or Flexpod systems. What’s more, assuming you configured everything correctly, those servers are running at a much higher rate of utilization than the ones they replaced, maybe 75% or more – and drawing power accordingly.

In short, you’ve got a lot of heat and power consumption concentrated in a small area.

This is no reason not to pursue virtualization vigorously, mind you – you just have to be prepared to deal with the changes in your data center layout, and power and cooling requirements.

It means paying attention to how the equipment is racked and cabled to promote air flow, for example. APC by Schneider Electric has partnered with Cisco to deliver versions of our APC NetShelter Networking Enclosures along with guides that show how to properly install and cable the systems for proper side airflow.

You might also want to look at some cooling solutions specifically designed for high-density areas, such as the APC by Schneider Electric InfraStruXure HD. That will provide additional cooling for your high-density areas while the rest of the data center gets along with more traditional cooling, so you don’t waste money by provided excessive cooling for the entire data center.

Virtualization is a great technology and customers are realizing great benefits from it. But those benefits can quickly turn to disaster if you don’t properly plan for the changes that virtualization technology brings in terms of power and cooling requirements. APC by Schneider Electric, along with our partners, can help ensure your data center is properly configured for virtualization.


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