How data center admins can add computing capacity while maintaining energy efficiency

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As data keeps multiplying and arriving in more formats at faster speeds, data center operators foresee shortages of power, while they want to add computing capacity. But they want to expand in a way that’s energy-efficient, according to an April survey of 100 technology decision makers at large companies from InformationWeek, Siemens and UBM Tech.

Energy consumption is somewhat important, very important or extremely important to 78 percent of the respondents when they are planning to add computing resources, the survey showed. Reports of highly energy-efficient data centers at eBay, Facebook, Google and others have likely contributed to the drive to be energy efficient, but costs are surely top of mind, too.

The thing is, respondents have different approaches in mind for keeping power and cooling costs at bay and squeezing the most computing capacity out of their gear. The survey showed that respondents see many routes to a similar destination. Here are the top five means they want to employ or are already implementing:

  • Consolidate servers in existing data centers (38 percent)
  • Use blade technology (32 percent)
  • Put more energy-efficient equipment in place (32 percent)
  • Implement virtualization, outsource servers and/or storage to third-party cloud providers (30 percent)
  • Upgrade with mechanical improvements (24 percent)

Less popular options that got more than 15 percent of a response include adopting modular options and introducing data-center infrastructure-management software.

The results are remarkably different from a 2008 study Siemens conducted, which found 45 percent of respondents were looking to virtualization to save energy. Far less popular, each at 19 percent, were upgrades to air conditioning and cooling systems and bringing in more energy-efficient gear.

This year’s findings are sure to please blade server vendors — basically all the big general server vendors — as well as the virtualization experts over at VMware.

Companies playing in industries that sell potentially power-saving gear, such as microservers, modular data centers and SSDs could also benefit. So could companies peddling energy management software, such as Cisco.

To be sure, companies are already doing some monitoring to monitor the energy implications of adding servers. The survey results show 23 percent track energy use from cooling infrastructure and IT systems on separate meters. And 22 percent use capacity-management tools to prevent the use of too much power. It looks as if these and other methods will continue just as data gets bigger. And with more data from more sources coming into use, that’s pretty much a given.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user asharkyu.

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