Data center performance measurement that adds up to improved efficiency

By Mark Fenton, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Cadence.

Modern data center operations extend beyond merely ensuring IT functions run smoothly. Today, data center operators face the growing challenge of optimizing their facilities for maximum efficiency.

While the term "efficiency" is a recurring theme in the data center industry, its interpretation can vary. Is efficiency about conserving energy use, cost reduction, water conservation, carbon emissions or something else entirely? Each person you ask may give you a different answer. Still, when speaking to senior management, all these factors are likely to contribute to their definition of efficiency. By employing physics-based analysis, data center managers can truly understand how to tackle all the different factors that are in play in order to ensure their facility runs as efficiently as possible.

Managing the demands of a data center

Delivering higher processing throughput, whilst meeting the various demands across a facility – such as constrained space and sustainability goals – is a common challenge data center operators face for a number of reasons.

Firstly, in a modern data center, there is often a growing frequency of high-density IT equipment deployment requests that puts huge pressure on the facility systems. This high-density equipment often necessitates additional power and cooling resources that older facilities, particularly legacy ones, aren’t designed to accommodate.

In addition to this challenge, some data centers lack the technology to predict the impact that operational changes can have elsewhere. For example, a manager could deploy high-density IT hardware and be unaware of how this will affect the current cooling and power system provisioning. This lack of visibility can increase risk that can only be comfortably resolved by over-provisioning once the new equipment is in place. This would have a negative impact on the data center’s sustainability posture as it would mean a rise in the carbon emissions produced. With the introduction of regulations, such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive in Europe, which necessitate stringent tracking and reporting of power and cooling use, facility managers can’t afford to have their carbon footprints surge unnecessarily.

Faced with balancing new sustainability requirements with demands already in play, how can managers ensure their data centers run at the best performance level possible? One route is through measurement, which can help identify how different demands interact with one another and have the most significant effects.

Scientific data center performance measurement

Measuring data center performance with The Green Grid’s Performance Indicator (PI) plus computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation is a proven approach to enhance efficiency in a facility and troubleshoot any issues.

The Green Grid's PI is a powerful tool that empowers managers to establish the data centers’ ability to meet IT cooling needs and be efficient so they can improve performance. It does this by delivering visibility into how different factors – including energy use, cooling effectiveness, and IT equipment performance – impact each other.

More specifically, the Green Grid’s PI can help weigh-up effective cooling during normal operation (IT Thermal Conformance) and adequate cooling during failure or maintenance within design parameters (IT Thermal Resilience), without compromising efficiency (PUE ratio).

Meanwhile, CFD technology simulates cooling systems so data center managers can virtually test operational changes and measure the impacts before they’re made in the physical facility.

Combined, this approach offers managers a holistic view of how any given change will impact the data centers’ performance. This means they can better plan, test, and validate changes, taking into account both risk and efficiency, before any change is made in the real data center.

Improving data center efficiency

Uncovering small improvements that can be made in a data center, can massively enhance a site’s overall efficiency and, therefore, the data center’s performance. The first step in discovering what these adjustments are is measurement, which quantifiable approaches, like The Green Grid’s PI and CFD simulations, make simpler and more effective. Executed well, performance assessments empower managers to balance the conflicting demands within their facility, ultimately making their job of handling operations simpler and the data center more efficient.

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