Data Centers: The Ultimate Guide To Data Center Cooling & Energy Optimization

Data centers provide a central space to house IT resources required to run applications of any business. To get the best out of data centers, optimizing their performance, scalability, energy efficiency, availability, security and cost-effectiveness is important.

Of all those parameters, energy efficiency optimization is one of the most important things organizations must consider, as the consequences of energy-inefficient data centers are significant. This article explains what data centers are — focusing on ways to keep data centers consuming less energy. 

What are data centers?

A data center is a large physical facility that contains an organization’s computer systems and related resources such as:

  • Servers
  • Networking equipment like routers and switches
  • Storage devices
  • Other computing infrastructure

These facilities are designed to provide a centralized location to store, manage and operate the physical equipment critical for running applications and storing large amounts of information — the digital backbone of any organization.

Today, data centers have evolved from local, on-premises physical data centers to cloud data centers from which businesses can remotely rent data centers hosted by third-party services. There are a few types of data centers now:

  • Enterprise data centers owned and managed directly by organizations.
  • Colocation data centers providing space, power and cooling to businesses in a shared space.
  • Managed services data centers owned and managed by third-party service providers. 

Best practices for optimizing data center performance & efficiency

To get the best out of data centers, you should optimize the space and the equipment for performance, scalability, energy efficiency, availability, security and cost-effectiveness — that’s a lot to think about! To optimize these parameters, here are some tips you can follow.

Implement robust privacy and security strategies

Data centers house an organization's most critical and sensitive information and resources. Therefore, it's crucial to implement strong security measures to defend against cyberattacks and other security threats. This can include security measures like:

(Read our data center security guide.)

Optimize energy efficiency

This is one of the most important aspects of optimizations because data centers consume high energy. To reduce this high cost and energy spend, you must implement data center energy optimization strategies like:

  • Optimized cooling systems
  • Energy-efficient hardware
  • The use of renewable energy

Monitor data centers

Monitoring helps to identify any bottlenecks of energy optimizations, performance, and any other issues in advance. Further, they can employ analytics tools to analyze hidden power consumption patterns, network traffic patterns, and other important patterns.  

Optimize scalability

When business requirements change or the customer base increases, you may need to add more resources to the data center to accommodate growing demand. Conversely, when the compute resources are idle or no longer required, you should scale down the resources to save operational costs. 

Any data center should be able to scale up or down to ensure that it can support future growth.

Support redundancy

Redundancy ensures you can continue operating your business in case of hardware and software failures, application errors, natural disasters, etc. This includes redundant power sources, backup generators, cooling systems and network connections.

(Learn about disaster recovery planning.)

What is data center energy optimization?

Now let’s turn to optimizing energy use in these powerful data centers. Data centers inherently consume a significant amount of electricity, which increases…

  • Your electricity bills
  • Your operational costs
  • Your carbon emissions

Data center energy optimization aims to maximize energy efficiency and minimize energy consumption in data centers. However, the performance of the data center is a fine line to balance: Overall performance must not have a negative impact on business needs but it should also maximize energy efficiency for both the organization’s costs and the environmental cost.

In addition to reduced costs and increased performance, businesses can expect many benefits from optimizing energy consumption, such as:

Ways data centers can consume less energy

The next section will discuss several ways to achieve optimized energy usage, including server consolidation, special cooling fans, reducing idle equipment, etc. 

Using liquid cooling technology

Stop using traditional technologies like fans, water cooling or air conditioning—which use a lot of energy.

Instead, use efficient technologies like liquid cooling to cool the data center equipment. Unlike air cooling, liquid cooling uses liquid to disperse heat from CPUs to prevent overheating. It also helps reduce the noise of the data centers, which can be problematic when using air or water cooling. 

Consolidating servers

Server consolidation reduces the number of physical servers by consolidating them into a smaller number of more powerful servers or virtual machines (VMs).

Since the number of servers is reduced, server consolidation optimizes computing resources, like CPU, memory and storage. There are several ways server consolidation helps reduce energy consumption:

  • Decreases the physical space required for servers which reduces storage and maintenance costs. This directly minimizes the energy consumption of lighting and heating or cooling the data center.
  • Minimizes the number of idle serves and optimize the server utilization, which can help reduce the overall energy consumption of the data center.
  • Reduces the costs associated with data center cooling since the heat will be reduced with a small number of servers running.

Using renewable energy

Using renewable energy sources like solar, hydropower and wind enables organizations to reduce the carbon footprints of their data centers, thereby reducing energy costs.

Unlike traditional energy sources like electricity, fossil fuels and batteries, renewable energy sources require less energy to generate power. Thus, renewable energy can help data centers become more energy-efficient and reduce overall energy consumption. Also, renewable energy sources are more cost-effective than traditional sources. Renewable energy sources help organizations reduce their energy costs and save significant amounts of money.

Pro Tip: Renewable energy can be stored when available — eliminating the need to rely on other energy sources when renewable energy is not available. 

Raising the temperature

Increasing the operating temperature by a few degrees means you reduce cooling requirements and conserve energy.

Data centers' cooling mechanisms were traditionally used to keep computing resources operating properly — and it was downright cold in there, just ask any admin. Recent advancements have introduced systems that can function at higher temperatures. Today’s modern servers can operate at 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the ambient temperature increases, power usage drops immediately without impacting server performance. Interestingly, cooler environmental temperatures can also degrade the efficiency of the cooling systems themselves. So, overall, higher temperatures can also improve the efficiency of the cooling systems and help reduce energy consumption.

Implementing hot and cold aisles

The hot and cold aisles are another great way to optimize the energy efficiency of a data center. It is an arrangement of server racks that helps to separate the hot and cold airflows within the data center. In such a layout, server racks are lined up in alternating rows in a containment system, with cold server aisles facing one direction while hot server aisles face in another direction. 

In this layout, the containment system acts as a physical barrier between the hot and cold aisles to prevent mixing hot and cold air. This separation between air flows helps lower energy consumption and provides more efficient cooling for the machines. 

Using efficient hardware

Using energy-efficient hardware like storage, servers and networking components helps reduce overall energy usage in the data center. For example, SSDs use less energy than usual hard disks while being more efficient storage.

Pro Tip: Invest in more efficient hardware to maintain higher temperatures — you’ll reduce operating costs and improve your overall business sustainability.

Monitoring data centers supports energy optimization?

Monitoring anything helps organizations better understand how systems work. Monitoring data center energy utilization gives organizations insights into how their IT resources consume energy. Using these insights, organizations can:

  1. Uncover areas for improvement.
  2. Make data-driven decisions about where to focus their energy optimization efforts.

 By monitoring energy consumption regularly, you can identify trends and patterns in energy usage, like peak usage times or spikes in energy consumption. This data can help organizations identify and implement energy-saving measures during peak usage.

How to measure & collect data center energy utilization

  • Using DCIM software. Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software help gather information from power meters and convert them into actionable insights. Some modern DCIM software can provide energy consumption data daily and convert them into visualizations like reports, charts and 3D visual graphs to help easily understand energy usage and where to apply the fixes. 
  • Using sensors. Also you can install sensors to measure energy-optimization-related parameters like temperature, humidity, airflow, and air pressure.
  • Tracking KPIs. Key performance indicators such as Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) can be used to track the effectiveness of energy efficiency measures of data centers. PUE is the ratio of total energy to total IT equipment energy. You can calculate it using DCIM software. Key metrics like Carbon Usage Effectiveness (CUE), Cooling Capacity Factor (CCF) and Stranded Power Capacity Per Rack can be used to improve the overall sustainability of data centers. 

Technology must become more sustainable

Businesses are looking for ways to make operating more sustainable. Because data centers consume so much energy and contribute heavily to carbon emissions (thus overall climate change), they are the perfect place to optimize and reduce energy usage.

What is Splunk?

This posting does not necessarily represent Splunk's position, strategies or opinion.

Shanika Wickramasinghe is a software engineer by profession and a graduate in Information Technology. Her specialties are Web and Mobile Development. Shanika considers writing the best medium to learn and share her knowledge. She is passionate about everything she does, loves to travel and enjoys nature whenever she takes a break from her busy work schedule. She also writes for her Medium blog sometimes. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.