Measurable Goals Results

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print

Return on investment is a key measure of Green IT's success. Energy prices, a recession and evolving public attitudes have altered the way businesses view energy-efficient technology. Savvy enterprises now recognize the benefits of going green.

Designing greener data centers is all about putting the right tools, technology and processes in place, PwC’s Singh says. It’s essential to conduct detailed energy audits, install systems and software that monitor and automate power consumption patterns, and achieve a holistic view of how and where the enterprise is using energy. 

“Metrics and measurements are the keys to success,” says John Tuccillo, the president and CEO of industry consortium Green Grid and a vice president at APC by Schneider Electric.

Over the past few years, the EPA has developed sophisticated auditing tools, while firms including Hewlett-Packard (HP) and IBM have the ability to conduct a detailed analysis of data centers and their equipment. Meanwhile, organizations such as the Green Grid, which has more than 200 members, have ratcheted up the stakes by establishing metrics and standards, measurement tools and best practices. 

The benefits of energy efficiency extend across all industries, according to Tuccillo. A key metric that the Green Grid introduced is power usage effectiveness (PUE), which examines a facility’s total energy consumption and determines how much power actually goes into IT equipment. The higher the figure, the greener the facility. 

Another key benchmark is data center infrastructure efficiency (DCiE). “Unless you know how and where you’re consuming energy, there’s no way to drive improvement,” Tuccillo points out.

The Green Grid provides PUE and DCiE estimators, reporting tools and power policy tools at its Website. Still, PUE and DCiE don’t provide a total and complete picture. 

Other organizations, such as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), also provide measurement solutions. And the EPA’s auditing tool goes beyond the basic PUE equation: It looks at all energy sources—diesel fuel, natural gas and different sources of electricity—to gain a more complete energy
consumption picture.

Living the Concept

One company with robust measurement tools in place is Salt River Project (SRP), one of the largest public utilities in the United States, with more than 935,000 customers in the Phoenix area. Achieving a total view of data center efficiency is paramount for the enterprise, says John Bistany, manager of IT infrastructure. 

The utility, which continually promotes energy savings and green initiatives for its customers, understands the urgency of living the concept. It has established an internal sustainability team that focuses on company operations and examines ways to become greener. 

In June 2009, SRP worked with HP over a six-week period to complete a comprehensive energy audit and establish baseline PUE levels. Among other things, the organization evaluated the impact of previously installed hot and cold aisles. It also looked at how modifying server spacing and cabling would alter energy consumption. 

With an understanding of cause/effect relationships, IT put an automated control system in place. Soon, SRP will move to advanced monitoring tools to manage and control power consumption on a real-time basis. It will also evaluate higher temperature set points for the data center. Already, the utility has installed separate power meters for the data center so it can examine its usage separately from the overall energy costs for the building.
In addition, SRP designed a space above the ceiling of the data center to serve as a hot-air plenum for computer room air-conditioning units. At the same time, it has replaced and upgraded these units—retrofitting existing systems with variable frequency drives. 

The utility also has used floor grommets and blanking panels to minimize cold air loss. And it implemented server virtualization and blades to consolidate systems and build a more efficient computing infrastructure.
Moreover, SRP has standardized on Energy Star-compliant PCs, optimized LCD monitors, and set printers to function in duplex mode and use power-saving features when they’re idle. In the coming months, it will install network copiers, fax machines and scanners to further consolidate devices.
Finally, the utility has addressed e-waste by positioning “techno” trash cans throughout SRP facilities. They’re used to collect and recycle technology-related waste, including batteries, power cords and CDs.

The result? Once SRP implements all these changes, it will trim its carbon emissions by 289 tons per year, slash its annual energy usage by 684,878 kilowatts, and tally more than $53,000 in annual energy savings by making changes to the data center. Overall, the utility figures it will improve its PUE by 17 percent—to 1.79. 

“Today, we have a more complete view into the data center, and we have the information available to make improvements,” Bistany explains.

This article was originally published on 2010-08-13
Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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