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How to Reduce Power Utilization in the Data Centre

Companies looking to improve their data storage efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint often look to power utilization in facilities and office locations first. But there’s a lot that can be done in IT alone to reduce power consumption. One kilowatt saved in IT can translate to multiple kilowatts saved in facility power usage, which makes it a great place to start. 

If power utilization is the largest recurring cost in the data centre, what process, software, and hardware decisions can IT practitioners make to improve utilization and build in efficiency on an operational level?

What Uses Power in a Data Centre?

First, let’s look at what actually uses power in a data centre—the heartbeat of IT. Data centers use approximately 1.8% of electricity in the US, and that comes from a number of components, including:

  • Servers, which are increasing power usage with faster processors and memory. 
  • Accelerators, which are getting larger and hotter. Top-of-the-line accelerator cards can use hundreds of watts a piece.
  • Network switches, which get more power hungry as network speeds increase.
  • Storage, which until recently was mostly provided by hard disk drives (HDDs).
  • Cooling, which is used to dissipate the ever-increasing power needs of these components.

These are the biggest consumers of power in the data centre. For every watt of power you use in a data centre, it generates an equivalent amount of heat, which you have to then move out of the data centre. Air conditioning in data centers is much more complex than the HVAC unit in a typical home. These specialized systems often include cooling towers, chillers, water pumps, and indoor units—all of which interact with one another through complex systems (and consume a fair amount of power themselves).

The efficiency of a data centre is measured in power utilization efficiency (PUE), which is calculated using a formula that divides total facility power by IT equipment power.

How is Power Usage Measured in the Data Centre?

Data centre efficiency can be measured by Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), a metric created by Green Grid. PUE is calculated like this, and expressed as a ratio, which is better the closer to 1.0 it gets:

Total power entering data centre / power used to run IT equipment = PUE

PUE can help you determine how much additional power is used on top of the power used by IT infrastructure, such as lighting and cooling. The average data centre has had a PUE of 1.58 since around 2020, but only newer data centers can achieve lower PUEs such as 1.2 to 1.4.

Learn how efficient IT infrastructures can save more than just energy costs >>

How Do Data Centre Cooling Systems Work?

Typically, data centers don’t turn off—ever. And especially those on which major infrastructures rely. 

Although storage infrastructure generally accounts for 20-25% of data centre energy usage today, that number is expected to rise to as high as 40% by 2023, according to The Gartner Group.

Power needs to be on around the clock, which creates a constant heat source. This requires durable, reliable, and powerful cooling systems to thermally regulate IT equipment, which is much more sensitive to temperature fluctuations than the human body. Smart, efficient, and precise tech is required to maintain optimal temperatures and carefully engineered interactions between components.

The cooling systems in data centers include:

  • Open air-cooling systems
  • Enclosed air-cooling systems (also called hot- or cold-aisle containment)
  • Direct liquid-cooling systems
  • Immersion cooling systems

These are typically deployed in configurations/cooling strategies that meet the specifications of each data centre, including:

  • The room
  • The aisle
  • In-row cooling

How Can IT Help to Reduce Power Utilization in the Data Centre?

The data centre will always be dependent on the needs of IT, and vice versa. As a result, starting with improved IT efficiency can help IT teams address the issue at the root.

To improve total operating efficiency (TOE), data centers won’t just need to improve their PUE, they’ll need more efficient IT architectures with power-efficient IT products, which in turn require less space, power, and cooling. TOE has been addressed with low-hanging fruit such as modern cooling and LED lighting, so to make further gains, IT will need to look to more efficient infrastructure.

Some strategies to take include:

  1. Get visibility into the power each device is using with monitoring and AI optimisation.
  2. Monitoring can indicate how much power is quoted by various devices. Most vendors can offer very accurate numbers here.

    Pure1® now gives storage admins a tool to track efficiency and carbon output in their own data centers. Pure1 has a dashboard with monitoring that displays current carbon emissions in the data centre.

  3. Transition from disk to flash.
  4. Disk systems are one of the biggest sources of data storage power utilization.

    The one area where power utilization is going down, not up, is storage technology—thanks to flash. Storage is one of the few technologies where we, as an industry, have the opportunity to lower power consumption of the data centre while increasing performance, density, and efficiency.

    Historically, this transition has been slow compared to consumer devices, especially in hyperscaler data centers, but it’s happening. New generations of flash are far more efficient per terabyte than spinning disk. And no other storage vendor is doing it better than Pure Storage® and our highly efficient DirectFlash® technology. DirectFlash is a system-level approach to flash media management, rather than a drive-level approach.

    With FlashArray//XL™, Pure introduces DirectFlash Modules with built-in non-volatile RAM. They reduce rack space requirements by removing dedicated NVRAM slots from the main array chassis. Also, the larger 5U chassis of FlashArray//XL provides more space for fans and airflow, which improves cooling efficiency.

  5. Tiered bunker architecture.
  6. One of the most helpful approaches is a tiered backup architecture. It allows you to separate data snapshots that are hot, warm, or cold. A data-only bunker can safely store large amounts of data that aren’t needed for immediate use.

    Check out this post for an example of a tiered bunker architecture you can create with Pure >>

  7. Employ data reduction for application and analytics workloads.
  8. Redundant data can be necessary, but it can also be a drain on data centre resources. And if IT can’t be efficient about what data is being stored and why, the data centre can’t be efficient, either. According to the Worldwide IDC Global DataSphere Forecast, around 60% of storage data will be inactive cold data by 2025, referred to as “cold data.” Finding more efficient ways to store it can reduce load on data centers.

    You know what data reduction software, compression, and deduplication can do for TCO and economics. But it plays in efficiency, too. If you think about this in terms of the application itself and the amount of energy needed to serve a given application, the more we can do to reduce that, the less equipment we have to put out there, and the more efficient it will be. More proactive deduplication can also enable a significant reduction in e-waste, not just in storage systems but also in systems surrounding storage arrays.

    Revisit data retention and deletion policies to ensure what’s saved is necessary and compliant >>

  9. Shrink the storage footprint for improved cooling of racks.
  10. Anticipated increases in the storage floor space and power usage in the enterprise are driven primarily by two things: high data growth and rising energy costs.

    Enterprises clearly can’t just continue to add commodity off the shelf (COTS) disk devices to their storage infrastructures and expect to stay within both their floor space and power budgets over time. Designing racks and leveraging storage equipment with a smaller footprint and less cooling requirements can decrease the burden on cooling systems.

    Improving the density of storage systems can have an impact, too. The density of  Pure Storage DirectFlash modules require far fewer devices to meet a given performance and capacity requirement, and that means significantly less supporting infrastructure (controllers, enclosures, fans, power supplies, cables, switches, etc.). Moving to high-density storage infrastructure, combined with the use of data reduction technologies like compression and deduplication and more effective strategies to locate and remove excess stored data, can significantly reduce acquisition costs and energy and floor space consumption

    To help enterprises meet new environmental impact and sustainability goals, FlashBlade//S™ produces the most efficient results on key performance, space, and power metrics, such as usable capacity per watt, throughput per watt, and usable capacity per rack unit.

    “Pure is building systems that are three, four, five, sometimes 10 times as dense as the competition. If we can deliver a petabyte worth of storage with 5x less other stuff surrounding it, that system will be way more efficient.” –Rob Lee, CTO, Pure Storage.

    Learn more about how modern storage can offset power utilization in the data centre >>

  11. Partner with vendors who also monitor and report carbon output and ESG initiatives.

    The IT supply chain often comprises numerous vendors and partners that you can select based on design, delivery, and efficiency. Your IT supply chain is therefore only as green as the vendors and partners you rely on.

    Pure FlashArray™ lowers energy usage by up to 80% compared to competitive all-flash systems—a figure even more prominent when compared to spinning disk. Rethinking your storage technology can be a great way to reduce carbon output and achieve ESG initiatives.

    Learn how Pure is collaborating with our partners to help customers achieve their sustainability goals >>

Drive Greater Efficiency in IT with Pure Storage

“What we're doing with DirectFlash in QLC and beyond drives a significant amount of efficiency out of the raw media that really nobody else in the industry is going to be able to get,” says Pure CTO Rob Lee. Modern storage is proven to offset power utilization in the data centre—but it doesn’t stop there. The Pure Storage portfolio is storage transformed, packed with the features and capabilities to seamlessly address all of the strategies mentioned above. Here’s how:

  • DirectFlash technology delivers unparalleled density and efficiency from flash, driving significant energy reductions. In as few as three rack units, FlashArray™ can provide more than 1.3PB of effective capacity.
  • Built-for-flash software delivers more reliable products and longer service lifetimes, dramatically reducing e-waste.
  • Always-on data reduction further enhances storage efficiency, reducing effective energy usage without compromising performance.
  • Performance and simplicity allows customers to consolidate their IT environments, reduce their overall storage footprint, and drive higher utilization and reuse.

Learn more about how Pure’s products help promote environmental efficiency both in IT and across the organisation.

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