Modernize power management for data centers to improve PUE, sustainability, and resilience

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If you operate or have acquired aging, legacy data centers, you may be finding that these facilities are unable to meet your newest efficiency and uptime goals compared to newer facilities. The challenge is made greater by growing IT loads, variable IT rack densities, and virtualization, combined with lower capital budgets. This post will discuss how modernizing data center power management can help you improve the energy performance and resilience of these facilities.

The financial and business impact of poor data center efficiency and reliability

power management for data centers

CRN reports “demand for cloud services and remote working” and “increasing demand for colocation and hybrid cloud opportunities” means the data center market will grow over the next several years. However, data centers use an estimated 200 terawatt-hours (TWh) each year. That is more than the national energy consumption of some countries. And energy demand continues to increase as hyperscale data centers reach the limits of processor shrinkage, which limits further gains in energy efficiency.

Up to now, hyperscale facilities have had significant advantages in energy efficiency. Nicola Jones, reporting for Nature, explains, “The savings made by hyperscale centers can be seen in their power usage efficiency (PUE), defined as the total energy needed for everything, including lights and cooling, divided by the energy used for computing (a PUE of 1.0 would be a perfect score). Conventional data centers typically have a PUE of about 2.0; for hyperscale facilities, that’s been whittled down to about 1.2. Google, for one, boasts a PUE of 1.12 on average for all its centers.”

Older data centers need to find ways to improve PUE and, in turn, reduce energy-related costs. If you are not operating efficiently, you cannot get to the cost per megawatt that you need to compete. And it is more than just the bottom line. Your customers may be demanding it.

Multi-tenant data centers are responding to an increasing trend in clients including sustainability in their RFPs. A survey by 451 Research / S&P Global Market Intelligence revealed that, of those surveyed, “43% said they have a strategic sustainability initiative in place to improve their data center builds and operations in a comprehensive fashion.” They are pursuing this to gain customers and to be more resilient to the potential effects of climate change.

In terms of managing resilience, if you are operating a Tier 4 facility, you are expected to be down less than 26 minutes per year. That is a very tall order. The Uptime Institute says that 88% of data center outages are caused by human error and mechanical failures. And with a server failure costing near $9,000 per minute, your operators must quickly identify, isolate, and respond to risks.

The solution: Modernizing power management

To maximize the value of legacy data centers over their entire life cycle, there are many dimensions of modernization you can consider, from spare parts management to equipment upgrades or replacement, and from specialized training and maintenance plans to a variety of services. But let us look specifically at one of the most cost-effective options that represents one of the biggest returns on investment: optimizing power management.

Digitizing an aging infrastructure and using the newest power management software tools will help you identify and manage inefficiencies across your data center infrastructure. It will also support predictive maintenance practices. A modern power management system will integrate all connected devices in the power distribution network. You may have smart devices in place already for monitoring – if not, you may need to upgrade or install new circuit breakers, sensors, and meters for key elements of your data center installations.

5 benefits of a power management system

Once in place, a power management system will help your facility team:

  1. Decrease number and duration of unplanned outages. Proactively identify over-subscribed capacity (e.g., UPSs and generators), compromised IT branch circuits, and equipment maintenance needs (e.g., transformer overheating and battery failures). Receive alarms for power disturbance events so you can then perform fast root cause analysis to isolate and respond to a problem before it can cause downtime.
  2. Improve the effectiveness of maintenance activities. Safely optimize the loading of critical power distribution equipment without compromising reliability, rebalance phases to ensure full capacity circuit loading, and diagnose power quality problems like harmonics.
  3. Manage onsite renewable energy. Understand and manage all energy resources and determine the best times to switch or supplement your main supply with alternative energy sources.
  4. Improve power distribution efficiency. Track real time and historical energy efficiency down to the rack level, as per Green Grid standards, to help clients reach their sustainability objectives and reduce your facility’s PUE. Analyze power system losses and identify loads that should be decommissioned or replaced with more efficient alternatives.
  5. Support energy cost allocation and billing. Accurately calculate rack and customer energy, peak power, and current from raw branch circuit data. Export energy billing data to accounting, financial, or billing systems.

Strengthen power management though integration and services

Power management solutions can integrate with your building management systems to unify management of power and energy, HVAC, lighting, and fire safety. Systems can also integrate data from weather services, as well as utility rates and demand response signals. If a common power management platform is implemented across all of your facilities, your teams can identify and learn from shared best practices.

The newest power management solutions can also act as a portal to expert services that help your facilities overcome limited bandwidth, staffing, and visibility of your sites by providing:

  • 24×7 expert monitoring. A connected service team can help you improve infrastructure utilization, predict failures, resolve issues remotely to improve response time, and lower maintenance costs.
  • Building analytics. Expert advisors will help you identify and prioritize building performance issues,  uncover hidden savings, and validate payback on HVAC retrofits. In total, this can represent up to15% to 30% in energy savings.
  • Asset performance management. By helping you monitor equipment performance, remote services can help you maximize equipment lifetime and reduce the risk of unscheduled downtime.

Smart tools help Los Alamos National Laboratory reduce PUE

This U.S. government laboratory is one of the largest science and technology institutions in the world, conducting multidisciplinary research in fields such as nuclear fusion, renewable energy, nanotechnology, and supercomputing. To prepare the site’s Strategic Computing Complex data center to be future-ready for the next-generation supercomputer, the management team wanted to improve PUE. However, they lacked visibility to energy use, which was forcing them to make manual PUE calculations.

Schneider Electric delivered a solution using EcoStruxure™ Power Monitoring Expert, PowerLogic meters, trip units, and EcoStruxure Power Advisor services. The system provides accurate, real-time calculation of PUE, energy data visualization, and expert assistance in making informed energy efficiency decisions. This has resulted in continuous energy consumption optimization and an impressive PUE of 1.19. The power management system is also helping reduce the risk of downtime and costly repairs.

For more information

EcoStruxure Power Monitoring Expert, Power Operation, and Power Advisor from Schneider Electric are designed as a fully integrated power management solution to help you gain the in-depth situational awareness needed to tackle all the power and energy demands facing your power-critical facility. To learn more, discover how EcoStruxure for Data Centers can help your organization.

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