EU Code of Conduct on Data Centres: A Guide to Best Practice

This article outlines those recommendations in the Best Practice Guidelines that are easy to implement and will not incur large investments of time or financial to achieve.

The electricity consumed by data centres constitutes a substantial proportion of the energy consumption of the EU, expected to rise from the current total of 56 TWh (Terra Watt Hours)) to 104 TWh by 2020. To counteract this undesirable trend, the recent EU Code of Conduct recommends a set of Best Practice Guidelines for Data Centres. This is a set of voluntary guidelines with the ultimate aim to drive efficiency from current levels of around 50% to 80%. But it’s not just the big players that should be taking heed. Put a few of these guidelines into the management of your servers and you will save money and have the satisfaction of knowing that you are doing all you can to reduce your company’s carbon footprint. This article outlines those recommendations in the Best Practice Guidelines that are easy to implement and will not incur large investments of time or financial to achieve.

  1. Existing IT Equipment and Services
  2. New IT Equipment
  3. Air Flow Management and Design
  4. Temperature and Humidity Settings
  5. Turn Out the Lights
  6. Monitoring Energy and Environment

Existing IT Equipment and Services

Take an audit of your IT equipment and completely decommission and remove any hardware supporting service no longer in use, and consider virtualising any servers which are not used on a regular basis.

Decommission or archive any services which are of little business value and therefore do not justify the financial or environmental costs.

If you have servers, networking or storage equipment that are idle for significant periods of time and cannot be virtualised or archived, shut these down or put them in to a low power ‘sleep’ state, checking first that any legacy applications and hardware can survive such state changes without loss of function or reliability.

New IT Equipment

Include the Energy Efficiency Performance of the IP device as a high priority in your decision making. This may be through the use of energy star or SPECPower type standard metrics.

Include operating temperature and humidity ranges at equipment intake of new equipment as high priority decision factors. ASHRAE Thermal Guidelines for Data Processing Environments 2nd Edition suggest that servers may be run optimally between 18 to 27 degrees Centigrade, higher than previously thought and this, counter-intuitively, can save energy by avoiding over-cooling from expensive to run air conditioning units.

When selecting new rack-mount or free standing equipment, ensure that the air flow direction matches that of the existing airflow, typically front to back.

For any new hardware consider first deployment of Grid and virtualisation technologies.

For selecting new software make the energy use performance of the software a primary selection factor and if you are outsourcing software development then include the energy use of the software in the clauses of the contract.

Air Flow Management and Design

Air Flow management is designed to minimise bypass air, this is air which returns to the air conditioning unit without having performed any cooling and the resulting re-circulation and mixing of hot and cool air which would lead to raised equipment intake temperatures. Often in these circumstances air conditioning unit air supply temperatures are reduced or air flow volumes increased which in turn will lead to raised energy usage. Addressing these issues with effective air flow management will mean more uniform equipment inlet temperatures and therefore allow set temperature points to be increased (thus saving energy in cooling costs) without running the risk of equipment overheating. There are a number of design concepts which are intended to contain and separate the cold air from the heated return air. These are briefly:

  • Hot/Cold aisle containmentserver aisle
  • Contained rack supply, room return
  • Room supply., contained rack return (including rack chimneys)
  • Contained rack supply, Contained rack return
  • Install blanking plates where there is no equipment to reduce cold air short circuiting straight through to the hot aisle.
  • Install draught excluders or cover plates to cover all air leakage opportunities in each rack.
  • Consider energy resource management systems and technologies which would allow you to optimise energy use, For instance remote power switching to schedule timely power up or shut down of components thereby limiting localised heat output or power draw.

Temperature and Humidity Settings

Server Rooms are often overcooled with air temperatures colder than necessary resulting in energy wastage. Increasing the set range for humidity can substantially reduce humidifier loads. These days ASHRAE recommend operating within the environmental range 18-27 degrees C. Operations in this range enable energy savings by reducing or eliminating overcooling. There is a caution to note that some IT equipment may show significant increases in fan power consumption in this range (eg. Around 25 degrees C) so monitor the situation to ensure that the IT equipment will not consume more energy than it saves in the cooling system.

If practical to do so, reduce the lower humidity set point down to 5.5 degrees C dew point and raise the upper humidity set point to 15 degrees dew point and 60% RH.

Turn Out the Lights!

Turn off the lights! A simple way to achieve this is to install motion detectors to activate lighting, to install switches with automatically turn off lighting a specified time after manual activation or have lights scheduled on timers to be activated only when the room is likely to be in use. Install low energy lighting throughout.

Monitoring Energy and Environment

The development and implementation of an energy monitoring and reporting system is key to operating efficiently.

Row or rack level metering of temperature and humidity will improve visibility of air supply temperature and humidity. Ideally racks should be monitored at the top middle and bottom and intake and exhaust air temperatures monitored to improve granularity.

Regular logging and reporting of energy, temperature and humidity levels particularly at peak levels will enable better management of energy use.

Knowledge is power (no pun intended) so effective monitoring of power usage, temperature in racks, air conditioning outlets and aisles is the first step to identify where to make savings. Reading the Code of Conduct and applying it to your IT environment no matter how small, will save you energy and money that can be put to better use. Environment and energy monitoring can be as simple or as complicated as you wish and there are solutions to match all pockets and server rooms. Manufacturers like AKCP and AVTECH Software provide monitoring products from the simplest monitor to highly sophisticated environment, power and security monitoring solutions. There really is no excuse!

Environment Monitoring Tools

References and Useful Resources

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