A unified approach

Managing data centre energy costs calls for disparate departments to work together.

Read time 4min 00sec

Most people are finding the 31.3% Eskom price hike a bitter pill to swallow, and it's no surprise that the business sector is moving quickly to find ways of reducing energy consumption to combat rising costs and also carbon emissions.

People don't have to own or manage a data centre to know that the amount of digital data being stored, shared, manipulated, processed, analysed, downloaded, uploaded, e-mailed, backed up and restored is growing fast - as much as 25% to 50% a year, by some estimates. In the first decade of the new millennium, there is likely to be a 600% increase in server installations and storage expanding nearly 70 times over.

This exuberant growth comes at a price. Many data centres, including most of those built before 2001, are at risk of outstripping their capacity to power and cool all these IT systems. Already, data centres consume 10 to 30 times more energy per square foot than the typical office building - a figure that has doubled in the last five years. Energy costs represent the single largest component of operating expense, and a potential barrier to future expansion.


The data centre, power-hungry as it is, is naturally central to any energy-saving initiatives. But, the problem is that many organisations are stymied by a disconnect between IT and facilities - one wholly dependent on the other and both at the mercy of each other's actions, yet rarely working collaboratively for mutual benefit. Apart, neither group can optimise energy consumption and system availability across the big picture.

The question that needs to be asked is does IT really have a handle on this trend? Ask any data centre manager about server utilisation, compute capacity and network traffic, and they'll provide specific, accurate figures. This information is known. It is considered fundamental to operating the data centre.

But, ask how much power capacity is available for new equipment, how much battery runtime is available to run critical systems during outages, and how much cooling capacity is available, and they are likely to give a blank look. The typical answer may be: “That's handled by facilities.”


In this type of silo organisational structure, critical issues are tossed over the wall between groups, rather than addressed collaboratively. Working separately, neither group is thinking about optimisation across both functions, such as how to maximise energy efficiency or strike the optimum balance between cost and reliability. One group's solution could actually be creating a problem for the other. Potential efficiencies and advantages are missed.

The point is, even a well-designed, up-to-date data centre depends heavily on facilities systems over which the IT team rarely has much visibility or control. The challenges are intensifying as virtualisation becomes more prevalent. In a virtualised environment, IT applications, their processing loads - and the power resources they require - can shift at will, on a moment-by-moment basis, stressing the power system in ways never before imagined.

Data centres consume 10 to 30 times more energy per square foot than the typical office building.

Evershree Mathadeen is channel manager at Eaton Power Quality.

This reality dramatises the need for IT and facilities to have collaborative, real-time visibility over issues that affect them both: the IT demands and facilities support systems that impact SLAs, reliability, costs and carbon footprint.

If IT and facilities could work collaboratively, organisations can operate more efficiently and effectively while still meeting their business objectives. A unified solution gathers, presents and analyses system-wide data in detail, to identify opportunities for cost savings, downtime prevention and energy efficiency across IT and facilities domains. It provides common views and workspaces to visualise power and thermal data, linked to hardware and business services. It also takes the complexity out of managing power systems by providing a clear picture of energy consumption and utilisation at a component, service, and data centre level.

As applications become more critical, and high-density servers place more importance within a single rack, it becomes more challenging to ensure the infrastructure performs up to service level agreements. Assurance requires visibility, and traditional methods have not shown the relationships between power and IT resources, especially in virtualised environments.

The converged monitoring solution gives IT and facilities real-time visibility into power conditions, with power circuits correlated to IT resources and linked to business services. With such a converged perspective, IT and facilities can easily see when abnormal conditions threaten the IT infrastructure, and exactly which business services are at risk.

* Evershree Mathadeen is channel manager at Eaton Power Quality.

Evershree Mathadeen

channel manager at Eaton.

Evershree Mathadeen, channel manager at Eaton, has many years’ experience in the IT industry. Beginning her career at HP, she moved through the ranks from customer care consultant to HP Carepack specialist. She has spent the last five years managing the channel for Eaton.

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