Using DCIM to meet energy-efficiency goals

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Using DCIM to meet energy-efficiency goals

Life for government data center operators under the Data Center Optimization Initiative is a bit like retrofitting an airplane with the latest technologies -- while in midflight.  Over the next several years, all federal data centers are under mandate to make changes and add new technologies to improve:

  • Energy metering
  • Power usage effectiveness (PUE)
  • Virtualization
  • Server utilization and automated monitoring
  • Facility utilization

At the same time, data center managers must ensure that the infrastructure on which their agencies and the nation rely continues to operate at the highest level.

By the end of fiscal year 2018, government data centers are required to meet PUE targets and to use data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software.  Facilities that fail to do so face steep consequences that include closure or consolidation.

Lowering PUE

The PUE metric calculates how much of the facility's overall energy use supports IT equipment; it’s a ratio of total data center input power to the IT load power.

An infrastructure metered with intelligent rack power distribution units, branch circuit monitoring systems and environmental sensors will give DCIM software useful and accurate data to analyze and to track PUE.

If you haven’t done so, implement energy-savings practices, such as isolating hot and cold aisles, managing airflow and raising the temperature within recommended ranges.

The good news is that DCIM software is growing in popularity for its success in reducing energy and other costs in data centers -- including facilities at the U.S. Senate, the Federal Reserve and the Department of Agriculture.

The real strength of DCIM is analyzing real-time and historical views of a data center’s health. DCIM offers an understanding of how electricity is being consumed in data centers -- all along the power chain -- and by each server.  It monitors environmental conditions, and lets data center managers know how much power capacity is available in an aisle or cabinet.  DCIM dashboards also improve visibility of all the moving parts -- and dependencies -- of distributed infrastructures.

Tackling energy metering, PUE and facility utilization

However, DCIM analytics are only as good as the data being fed into it. That’s why DCOI guidelines call for the use of advanced energy metering solutions. For this, intelligent rack power distribution units (iPDUs) and branch circuit metering systems are ideal solutions. Without collecting this baseline information, DCIM software will not be able to accurately track the energy capacity or utilization data that ties back to PUE. 

An iPDU’s outlet-level metering allows data center managers see how much power is being drawn by IT devices in real-time or over a select period.  Measuring also helps locate ghost servers to reduce energy waste -- helping data centers get one step closer to their PUE objective. 

Similarly, a branch circuit monitoring system collects power and environmental data at the facility level. It feeds DCIM software information on real-time and historical views of electrical capacity and power usage at the panelboard, floor PDU, remote power panel or overhead busway.  In short, it allows data centers to add metering where they weren’t able to before and use their existing infrastructure fully.   

Additionally, information from environmental sensors enables DCIM software to identify potential hotspot problems and inefficient cold areas -- information also useful to improving PUE.

Implementing solutions and documenting progress

Government tiered data centers, those with both computing and cooling infrastructure, are being asked to reach a PUE rating of 1.5 or less (1.4 for new builds).

DCIM software is an ideal tool to collect and report on PUE and other energy usage data in data centers.  However, DCIM solutions can be quite complex, offering modules that go beyond power, energy and environmental monitoring. Many solutions also offer modules that help track IT assets and manage change in an automated fashion.   

Although these features are invaluable on an operational level, government data center managers may want  to first focus on the toolset that will help them reach their DCOI targets and then implement other tools in stages.

Similarly, advanced metering tools should support the agency’s most immediate objectives, but also provide features that offer even greater long-term value. 

By instrumenting a data center with real-time metering tools and DCIM software,  agencies will not only get recommendations on how to improve efficiency but also be able to document their progress toward reaching their DCOI PUE energy-efficiency goals.

About the Author

Anthony Bonaventura is government director at Raritan.

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