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Greening your data centre from the grassroots

Greening your data centre from the grassroots

Vendors are keen to throw around their eco credentials when it comes to promoting their wares, but the biggest Green consideration for businesses is still the return on investment

As data usage and electricity costs spiral out of control IT managers are leaving no stone unturned, even changing individual components to lower power usage and increase effectiveness. Data centre efficiency was previously about the macro and environmental factors, but now vendors are making changes at the grassroots level: CPUs and memory. Some early adopters have extracted serious power cost savings by simply changing the memory used; other CIOs and Cloud services providers think there are more effective measures to achieve this in the cooling and efficiency strategy.

The memory in servers is an important consideration for Cloud computing providers, including local high performance infrastructure services company, OrionVM. Chief executive officer, Sheng Yeo, said that hosting computing services in the Cloud is “memory heavy”, and while any efficiency increase is welcome, it must also be cost effective. It is particularly relevant for companies that operate their own data centres and are keen to lower their electricity costs.

“If you can justify the cost of the RAM increase — that it will be cheaper than the power you’ll pay over a year or two — it’s worth it in that regard,” Yeo said. “On the flip side, if you are paying specifically per watt of power, you don’t care as much because you’re in someone else’s data centre and you’re already paying a fixed rate.

“It’d be worth it, provided all the metrics line up.”

The possible return on investment of buying memory is still the biggest Green consideration for businesses. Animal Logic CIO, Xavier Desdoigts, warned people to be careful of the use of the term Green in data centres.

“A data centre will never be Green by definition, and there are very few that could claim to be Green,” Desdoigts said. Samsung is on a mission to push its memory credentials with end users that buy servers, spruiking its new range of DDR3 memory for servers — billed as ‘Green memory’ — as a way to boost performance, reduce power usage and significantly cut costs.

In the world’s first commercial deployment, Korea Telecom deployed the new memory in 70 per cent of the servers in its data centre, which powers the company’s telco and Cloud businesses. Senior vice-president for Cloud BU at Service Innovation Group, Jung-Sik Suh, claimed the change reduced overall data centre power costs by 15 per cent.

“It’s much more than pretty good,” Suh said, adding companies would have to reduce the staff headcount or turn off the elevator or lights to achieve the same reduction.

Samsung recently sponsored the inaugural Asia Pacific Data Centre Leadership Council event in Singapore, which was attended by data managers from around the region including from Australian companies IAG, Westpac, PacNet and Animal Logic. Animal Logic’s Desdoigts said that when it comes to data centre efficiency, there’s “no magic bullet”.

“We consider it in the same way that we look at efficiency in other parts of the business,” he said. “It’s one part of the business where we drive for efficiency. It’s also about the kinds of machines, how you connect and use them; that’s a very important part of the equation.”

Efficiency is a complex puzzle with pieces scattered across the entire business, he said. “It’s about constant planning and operational policies, about making sure there’s no waste, and about what is being consumed.”

Desdoigts said cooling is the key factor that drives his thinking around data centre efficiency and associated costs, and a range of technologies directly impact on electricity usage.

Animal Logic is responsible for the visual effects on blockbuster productions such as Australia, Happy Feet, Babe and Moulin Rouge and the company applies the same creative thinking when it comes to data centre cooling.

A key efficiency measure is switching off servers when they’re not in use, a luxury which Animal Logic has because it runs its own data centre.

“It seems like a very obvious and simple solution, but it is not often considered in the traditional thinking”, he said. “Now we have ways of making sure they are turned off and revived when needed.”

Mahesh Sharma attended the Asia Pacific Data Centre Leadership Council in Singapore as a guest of Samsung.

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