Keep growing data centers green

Keep growing data centers green

With ABB’s help to implement digital strategies, data center operators can operate more efficiently to meet the needs of their customers and the planet.

The data center market is no stranger to energy efficiency strategies and, in recent years, has led by example in the mission critical arena by cutting energy consumption and adopting greener expansion plans.

But while the industry is making strides in lowering energy usage, it is also seeing rapid digital acceleration, the vast increase of smart devices, and an upward surge in data demand. In fact, the total installed base of IoT devices worldwide is projected to be around 30.9 billion units by 2025 (significantly higher than the 13.8 billion units installed in 2021).

Here we look at some of the ways ABB is supporting our Data Center customers to manage the increase in data demand, while limiting any increase in energy use and carbon emissions.

Infrastructure changes

Firstly, there are a range of infrastructure modifications data centers can adopt to reduce their total energy consumption. These include innovating more energy-efficient power systems or moving entirely to large-scale battery energy storage systems (BESSs) to ensure reliable power connectivity in case of prolonged periods of power loss.

But battery energy storage and energy-efficient power are big budget changes, and although they offer impressive yields, the investment required can be cost-prohibitive for smaller operators.

Fortunately, there is much that can be done to reduce emissions and improve energy efficiency in a less cost-intensive way, and that is by digitization.

Making every watt count

By digitizing data centers, operators can react to increased demand without incurring significant additional emissions. Running data centers at higher temperatures, switching to variable frequency drives instead of dampers to control fan loads, adopting the improved efficiency of modern UPS systems, and using virtualization to reduce the number of underutilized servers are all strong contenders for improved data center efficiency.

There are several “no regrets” actions our data center customers can take, including the following:

Adopting best cooling practices: Traditional air cooling systems have proven very effective at maintaining a safe, controlled environment for rack densities of 2 to 3 kW per rack all the way to 25 kW per rack. However, operators are now aspiring to create an environment that can support densities in excess of 30 to 50 kW, and, at these levels, air cooling technologies are no longer the most effective. Alternative cooling systems such as rear door heat exchangers can provide a suitable solution.

Plugging into the smart grid: Smart grids enable two-way energy and information flows to create an automated and distributed power delivery network. Data center operators can not only draw clean power from the grid, they can also install renewable power sources within their facility in order to become an occasional power supplier themselves.

Minimizing idle IT equipment: One popular way to minimize idle IT equipment is distributed computing, which links computers together as if they were a single machine. By scaling up the number of data centers that work together, our customers can increase their processing power, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for separate facilities for specific applications.

Virtualization: Undergoing a program of virtualization can significantly improve the utilization of hardware, enabling a reduction in the number of power-consuming services and storage devices. In fact, it can even improve server usage by around 40%, increasing it from an average of 10% to 20% to at least 50% or 60%.

Consolidating equipment: Blade servers can help drive consolidation as they provide more processing output per unit of power consumed. Consolidating storage provides another opportunity, which improves memory utilization while reducing power consumption. Some consolidation methods can use up to 90% less power once fully operational.

Big savings are also coming from moving to solid state disc drives (SSDs) from traditional optical drives (HDDs). While a bit more expensive, they’re much smaller and more energy efficient and can be done during an IT refresh cycle every three to five years or so.

Managing CPU power usage: More than 50% of the power required to run a server is used by its central processing unit (CPU). Most CPUs have power management features that optimize power consumption by dynamically switching among multiple performance states based on utilization.

By dynamically ratcheting down processor voltage and frequency outside of peak performance tasks, the CPU can minimize energy waste.

Power distribution: Virtually all IT equipment is designed to work with input power voltages ranging from 100- to 240-V AC in accordance with global standards, and the general rule is the higher the voltage, the more efficient the unit. But by operating a UPS at 240/415 V, three-phase, four-wire output power, a server can be fed directly, and an incremental 2% reduction in facility energy can be achieved.

Finding more sustainable ways to expand

To keep up with the rising production and consumption of data, it may be necessary for our Data Center customers to build new infrastructure. To help operators do this in the most efficient and sustainable way, ABB has put together a white paper – Race to ROI – which offers solutions to speed up deployment without compromising on quality or safety.

By sharing our knowledge and experience, ABB can help more data center operators to fully realize the benefits of safe, smart, and sustainable digitization strategies to meet increasing data demand in the most efficient way.


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