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Power Prudence: Growing adoption of green data centres

March 29, 2013
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The growing demand for computing power has resulted in high energy costs for businesses. This, coupled with unreliable grid power, growing diesel prices and the increasing pressure to reduce carbon emissions, has led several enterprises to opt for green energy solutions. A key trend in this regard is the growing use of green data centres.

The trend is visible in enterprises with dedicated data centres, and data centre service providers. The latest initiative in this space is the establishment of a green data centre by Bharti Airtel in Mumbai. Launched in December 2012, the facility is designed to achieve power usage effectiveness of 1.7-1.75. The operator claims to have one of the most energy efficient data centres in the country.

At present, Tulip Telecom’s Tulip Data City in Bengaluru is the world’s third largest and Asia’s largest green data centre. It is designed to save energy costs and has an efficient cooling infrastructure. The facility will help in saving about 40 MW of power.

Other key players in the green data

centre space include Sify, Reliance Communications, Tata Communications and NetMagic Solutions. These vendors are providing tailor-made solutions and tools to organisations for the establishment of green data centres. They provide specialised measurement tools that can compute and analyse power consumption. This helps firms address issues in their IT set-up.

Setting up green data centres

While establishing a green data centre, a vendor focuses on maximising the efficiency of IT equipment like mechanical, lighting, electrical and computer systems. The key components of green data centres are:

Energy efficient power systems: This is the first step towards establishing a green data centre and involves the installation of high efficiency and energy star-rated uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems, which can deliver maximum efficiencies at partial loads. UPS-led power consumption by computing devices is the largest power saving element in a green data centre.

Right electrical equipment: An electrical design involving efficient components at the right places can help data centres to reduce wear and tear, and increase IT equipment security. This includes the use of correct size switches, properly tightened cable terminations and jointed busbars.

LED lighting: Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting in a data centre can help in reducing lighting power consumption by up to 80 per cent.

Effective air conditioning: The layout for a green data centre should provide an optimum air-conditioning design focusing on air flow. This includes utilising the hot-aisle-cold-aisle configuration, ensuring optimum under-floor depth, closing unnecessary floor openings, use of the Koldlok cable opening, and avoiding cabling in the floor and ceiling voids.

Computing devices: The computing devices and other assets in a green data centre should be installed on the basis of the equipment’s efficiency; cost should be a secondary factor.

A green approach

The majority of vendors follow three approaches to help organisations migrate to green data centres. These are:

Standard green approach: This is based on achieving short-term energy saving targets and initiatives like application rationalisation resulting in asset consolidation in a virtualised environment.

Advanced green approach: Under this approach, the business plan is targeted to change the way IT systems are operated within an organisation in order to save operational costs. This approach includes moving an organisation to internal cloud computing.

Green investment approach: This involves taking a long-term view of the business goals of an organisation. In this scenario, the scope of direct payback on investments is low. It involves the complete transformation of a data centre by going green. Pursuing this approach could see firms promoting regenerative power and heat recycling for operations.

Today, a large number of companies are struggling with high operating costs. A partial or complete approach to green data centres can help them increase operational efficiencies and reduce costs.

While most small and medium enterprises have outsourced their data centre operations to specialised vendors and service providers, several large organisations need to maintain their own dedicated data centres. For example, National Aluminium Company Limited has a green data centre with 24x7 power supply and air conditioning. The company has also put in place a monitoring system to help identify deficiencies in its IT set-up and for taking immediate remedial action.

Going forward, with an increase in the demand for data services and energy costs, most organisations would invest in green initiatives. According to a report published by global research firm TechNavio, the Indian data centre service market is estimated to witness a compound annual growth rate of 21.6 per cent during 2010-14. Also, the data centre floor space capacity has been witnessing an annual growth of 45-50 per cent in India as compared to 10-15 per cent in other countries. A large part of this expansion will be witnessed in the green data centre space.

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