4 Ways to Improve Data Center Energy Efficiency

4 Ways to Improve Data Center Energy Efficiency


Optimizing Data Center Energy Usage

It’s estimated that 30-40% of a business’s total energy usage is attributed to their data center1. The main bulk of data center costs are derived from:

  • An increased demand for power
  • Rising power costs
  • Excessive cooling costs

Although conserving energy and keeping costs low while meeting the demand for power can seem tough it can actually be a lot easier than you think. Here are 4 simple steps to improve data center energy efficiency in your organization:

1. Switch off idle equipment

To take your first easy step of improving data center energy efficiency, identify all underutilized devices and switch them off.

The usage of IT equipment, compared to its capacity is very low; PCs and servers accounting for network storage of 60% – 80% are typically utilized only 5% to 20% of the time. Even when idle, these devices will continue to use a significant amount of power. For example, a x86 server will use 30% to 40% of its maximum power even if it’s idle and not producing any work.




2. Monitoring

Conducting a power quality and usage analysis to measure, monitor and benchmark your current energy usage will help highlight where improvements can be made. Effective monitoring also allows you to:

  • Manage capacity and act on real-time information
  • Make smarter decisions leading to optimized operations
  • Access in-depth analytics to determine the actions necessary for enhanced efficiency
  • Gain a detailed understanding of the entire system


3. Virtualize servers and storage

A common pitfall of data centers is the inefficient distribution of applications across multiple systems. Energy is wasted as each server uses a lot of power without producing much work. Virtualization allows you to partition different applications on the same server. It improves hardware utilization considerably, while also reducing the number of servers and storage devices.

💡 TIP: When virtualizing servers, make sure you arrange lighter-heavier apps to distribute heat effectively. Some apps will get more hits than others, which can create hotspots that will have a negative effect on energy usage.


4. Manage airflow & temperatures


Managing airflow correctly can make a big change in energy output. One of the best airflow management techniques is enhanced containment, where physical barriers ensure that the cold supply air and hot exhaust air do not mix.

The diagrams below illustrate the difference between using a containment strategy and not.

Data center airflow

Hot aisle/cold aisle configuration with hot and cold air mixing (Photo: 42U.com)


Data center airflow

Data center curtains containing the airflow in the cold aisles (Photo: 42U.com)


Efficient airflow management will require less cooling and therefore save energy in the data center. By optimizing airflow, you could reduce your energy usage by up to 10%2.

Operating temperatures

Running your data center at the right temperature can result in major energy savings. However, it’s very important to get the balance of hot/cold, and dry/humid right, so as not to damage devices and equipment.

Data center equipment nowadays can tolerate a much wider temperature spectrum than in the past.

💡 TIP: If you’re currently running your computer room air conditioning at 70°F and your equipment is relatively new, this is more than likely too cool. Increase the temperature to 75°F or 80°F (the temperature that Google runs their data centers) and you’ll start saving energy immediately.

Another option for reducing cooling costs is to take advantage of outside temperatures and integrate a “free air” cooling system. This uses cooler air from outside your premises, removing the need for expensive HVAC systems.


There’s great scope for saving energy in your data center; even a smaller facility has the potential to save thousands through simple changes. With huge growth predicted in the industry by 2020, it’s important to implement these changes now to cut costs and lessen the environmental impact.


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