Projections for human use of technology and the Internet show exponential growth in the upcoming years. Managing this consumption of data requires significant inputs to keep up with demands for its informational outputs. All that data storing, processing, and analyzing requires a massive amount of energy to sustain. Data centers account for 1% of global electricity consumption and contribute approximately 0.3% of global carbon emissions. Many modernization efforts aim to improve its core functions of reliably transmitting and securely storing data. Data center management also requires changes to running necessary building functions, such as security systems, in more energy-efficient manners. Where are the changes required to make data center management efforts more energy-efficient while preserving critical functions?
Change the Approach to Temperature Control
Surprisingly, energy-consumption concerns don’t arise solely from running the servers and buildings. Controlling temperatures make up the most considerable proportion of power used in data center management. The server systems and facilities housing the racks of hardware need to be kept cool so the equipment can perform under optimal conditions. Cooling techniques range from building data centers in locations with cold climates or using energy management systems that adjust internal cooling efforts to current facility conditions.
Still, most cooling systems use water and cooling towers to lower equipment temperature. This method presents problems as well since it required evaporating as much as 100 billion liters of water to cool US data centers in 2014 alone. Therefore, implementing efficient systems could save water and energy.
Alternatively, shifting the focus away from cooling solutions are in development. Newer servers run at higher temperatures, therefore requiring less energy overall to power cooling systems.
Scaling with Demand and Usage
Building automation systems detect and make adjustments to building functions to run optimally. In the same vein, the servers that process vast amounts of data can be programmed to do the same and run when necessary. Shutting down unused servers during low-traffic usage can reduce the amount of energy needed to run the whole system. Facebook, a notable data powerhouse, has invented a system called Autoscale to do precisely that. Their system ensures some servers run at full capacity, so other unused servers get turned off during low-traffic times. In 2014, the company found this trial system resulted in an average 10-15% of power savings in a 24-hour cycle.
Optimize or Obsolete
Energy-efficiency, at its core, means eliminating energy waste while allowing processes to work at its same level. Data center management requires optimizing tasks or getting rid of outdated, obsolete functions that no longer serve their purpose. Building these server networks with independently upgradable systems allow data centers to improve or remove hardware selectively. Exercising this much control on server maintenance ultimately improves existing functions while removing obsolete technology that only contributes to energy consumption.
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