PTS: Blog

Data Centers Go to Washington

Data center power and cooling issues are creating quite a buzz on Capitol Hill.

In recent years, the power and cooling costs of the average data center have gone through the roof. Data centers rack up more than $3-billion in energy costs each year. That number is expected to rise dramatically within the next decade as more data centers are built. Adding to the energy drain are factors such as inefficient cooling systems, more powerful servers, and rising energy prices.

Part of the problem is that there isn’t enough energy to go around. This is a bigger issue during the summer months as the nation’s reserve electric capacity is declining. Some utility companies have asked business customers to cut power usage during peak times, even if that means switching from the power grid to a generator.

Congress’ aim is to pass legislation that will help to promote the use of energy efficient technology. This past July, the House passed a resolution that instructs the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study the issues surrounding data center power consumption, assess what the industry is doing to develop more energy-efficient technology, and seek incentives that would encourage companies to make the switch.

Now it’s the Senate’s turn to address the issue. In the hope of finding ways to cut back on the amount of power consumed by corporate and federal data centers, the Senate introduced a bill that is nearly identical to the one passed by the House just a few weeks earlier. If the data center power efficiency bill passes, it will go before President Bush for his signature.

Industry Reaction

So far, industry reaction has been more positive than negative. Congressional legislation is seen as an important step in raising national awareness of data center power issues, although some technology professionals are worried that this could lead to unnecessary regulation.

Rather than having the federal government set down rules for how data centers are designed, industry insiders hope the data center power efficiency bill will result in something similar to the Energy Star rating seen on computers and appliances. Such a rating would encourage manufacturers to improve the efficiency of technology without stifling industry growth.

PTS’ Perspective

Whether or not the legislation has a profound impact on the data center industry, there are steps that your organization can take to improve efficiency and save on data center power costs:

– Choose the most energy efficient data processing equipment. According to AMD’s Tony DiColli, AMD’s Opteron processor can consume 27% to 80% less power than its Intel Xenon counterpart.

– Use scalable modular support infrastructure that allows the data center power and cooling infrastructure to grow with the load, rather than over-sizing your data center to compensate for future growth.

– Improve the efficiency of your cooling systems. The cooling load should include both the IT load and the room heat load components including skin loads, lighting, people, outside air sources, and heat dissipated due to inefficiency of power and cooling components.

– Reduce the non-critical load losses of power and cooling components in the data center. These are losses that are independent of the load, such as control logic losses.

For an expert analysis of your data center’s power efficiency, consult a data center design firm. By looking at your IT environment as a whole, data center design professionals can weigh the complex interactions of your facility’s elements and provide recommendations for improvement.

If you’d like to learn more about data center power efficiency, please read “Electrical Efficiency Modeling of Data Centers” by Neil Rasmussen. A complimentary copy of the White Paper can be downloaded at