Data Centers are an integral part of today’s modern era. It is the backbone of our digital transformation and touches every single part of our daily lives. The number and size of Data Centers around the world are continuously growing and this has a significant impact on the overall energy consumption and associated carbon emissions. Although there is a push by the big guys like Apple and Google who are powering their Data Centers entirely from renewable energy, there are many more smaller centers where efficiency can be significantly improved.

According to The Public Sector Data Center Barometer Report: Malaysia 2014, In Malaysia, the public sector’s annual electricity consumption for IT facilities such as data centers, server rooms and computer labs in 2011 stood at 300,000,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) producing some 270,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.  This costs the Malaysian Government RM 120,000,000 in electricity bill just for its backend IT operations. This number is expected to grow 5% each year as demands for processing power increases every year.

There is an immediate need to transform our Data Centers into energy efficient centers that can deliver significant savings in operating expenditure and increased equipment performance and reliability. GreenTech Malaysia has worked with several public organisations to help improve the energy efficiency of their Data Centers. In all cases it has been about better management of the cooling mechanism as approximately 45% of the total energy consumption is to provide cooling. Some of the typical issues identified include cramp server room layouts, server racks left out of position, misplaced blowers, improper selection of doors and overall poor layout design that was done without careful planning and analysis.

Data Center operations that have a PUE of close to 1 are the most efficient. A PUE of 1 would mean that all the energy consumed is used to power the IT equipment and nothing is used for lighting, cooling, etc. For example, Facebook’s Prineville Data Center had a PUE of 1.078 in 2015.

There have been cases where we have managed to reduce the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) from 3.2 to 1.6 just by analysing the air flow and installing a hard containment unit.

Retrofitting existing Data Centers is a very effective and simple solution. The desired results can be achieved through proper planning and analysis to determine the most efficient air flow route and best layout of the containment system. Coupled with a Real-Time Energy Monitoring System, the operators will also be able to see in detail the actual energy consumption of the Data Center. The cost of this type of retrofit is not expensive and the payback period is typically between 1-3 years. The impact from this energy efficiency activity will reduce the carbon footprint of Data Centers and help make this industry greener.

Written by:
Amir Hamzah Mansor