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Turn up the heat in the data centre, says analyst

Gartner predicts big energy savings

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Data centre managers should turn server temperatures up to 24 degrees Celsius, and adopt more aggressive policies for IT energy measurement, Gartner says in a new report.

After conducting a Web-based survey of 130 infrastructure and operations managers, Gartner concluded that measurement and monitoring of data center energy use will remain immature through 2011. Only 7% of respondents said their top priorities include procurement of green products and pushing vendors to create more energy efficient technology. In general, data center managers are not paying enough attention to measuring, monitoring and modeling of energy use.

“Although the green IT and data center energy issue has been on the agenda for some time now, many managers feel that they have to deal with more immediate concerns before focusing attention on their suppliers’ products,” Rakesh Kumar, research vice president at Gartner, said in a news release. “In other words, even if more energy efficient servers or energy management tools were available, data center and IT managers are far more interested in internal projects like consolidation, rationalisation and virtualisation.”

About 63% of survey respondents expect to face data center capacity constraints in the next 18 months, and 15% said they are already using all available capacity and will have to build new data centers or refurbish existing ones within the next year. In a troubling sign, 48% of respondents have not yet considered metrics for energy management.

Gartner issued four recommendations for improving energy management:

• Raise the temperature at the server inlet point up to 71 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius), but use sensors to monitor potential hotspots.

• Develop a dashboard of data center energy-efficient metrics that provides appropriate data to different levels of IT and financial management.

• Use the SPECpower benchmark to evaluate the relative energy efficiency of servers.

• Improve the use of the existing infrastructure through consolidation and virtualisation before building out or buying new/additional data center floor space.

In addition to Gartner’s report, a recent survey by CDW illustrates trends related to data center efficiency. CDW surveyed 752 IT pros in US organisations for its 2009 Energy Efficient IT Report, finding that 59% are training employees to shut down equipment when they leave the office, and 46% have implemented or are implementing server virtualisation.

The recession has helped convince IT organisations of the financial value of power saving measures, with greater numbers implementing storage virtualisation, and managing cable placement to keep under-floor cooling chambers open and thus reduce demand on cooling systems. CDW found that 43% of IT shops have implemented remote monitoring and management of their data centers, up from 29% the year before.

Data centre managers are finding it easier to identify energy efficient equipment because of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Energy Star program for servers. But data centres are still missing many opportunities to save money on energy costs.

“Energy reduction efforts are yielding significant results … Still, most are spending millions more on energy than necessary,” CDW writes. “If the average organisation surveyed were to take full advantage of energy-savings measures, IT professionals estimate they could save £1m annually.”


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