Learning Guide: Smart power and energy efficiency in the data center

Guide to smart power and energy in the data center

Think about all the devices that make up your data center. What would they be without power? Scrap metal! Innovations come a mile a minute for many areas of data center design and technology, but one thing remains constant: You’ve got to power your machines and the accountants want you to do it as cheaply as possible.

Power consumption accounts for a large portion of most companies’ operating costs so it’s important to factor that in when planning a build or updating an existing one. Unfortunately, there’s not one single thing you can do to achieve smart power consumption. Do you go with alternate power sources or do you try to reduce consumption of the current source? How do you keep track of your data center’s performance so energy costs stay low?

Every situation is different but the team at SearchDataCenter.com has compiled this guide to power and energy in the data center.

Table of contents:

Overview: planning for power in your data center

How do you build a modern, energy efficient data center?

Staying on the cutting edge is not possible for every new data center build, but following some of the infrastructure trends will help. Thoughtful planning of every aspect — even lighting — is key to keeping power consumption in line right from the start.

Improve the design of your existing data center

How do you cope with data center expansion in the confines of an existing data center? A few tweaks here or there might be all you need, or a more radical approach may be necessary.

Know your guidelines

Look at the guidelines not only for energy and power in your data center but also in your cooling systems. Though the changes in these guidelines don’t keep pace with the evolution of technology, a quick look during planning could save your company money and time sorting out regulatory issues.

OK, it’s all planned out. Now what?

You’re not done yet. You’ve decided to pick the most energy-efficient servers on the market and your cooling systems are top notch, but without proper monitoring, your power consumption might spiral out of control. And you can’t stop there; you have to carefully manage your data center’s environment. It plays a bigger role than you think.

Dealing with potential flaws and challenges

Things can mushroom in a hurry when power goes down, or there's not enough power for all the systems that need to run, and what about expansion? If you aren't careful, unchecked growth could send your company’s energy bill through the data center roof.

Design flaws could spell disaster

We can talk all day about energy efficient servers, but the challenge is making them work. Redundancy helps, but it won’t eliminate failure. Don't worry, you can avoid disaster by learning from others' mistakes.

What about capacity and cooling challenges?
As our data needs grow so do our cooling and power requirements. If you just add more cooling, your energy costs could skyrocket. Here are a few considerations you can think about to make sure this challenge doesn’t get too big to surmount.

I've got to have more power!

Your want to reduce energy costs, but you can’t see a way to cut back any further on resources. Supplemental power and new technology might be the answer. If that doesn't work, consider a radical change and start producing your own power.

Creative use of new tech for energy-efficient growth

Do I need scale-up or scale-out servers?

The answer is completely subjective and is partly based on your data center's current power consumption. If your data center needs to grow, you'll have to balance increased data and resources with keeping energy costs low.

Think small, save big

Microservers are marketed mostly to smaller businesses whose needs don't quite require rack or blade servers. These “little engines that could” are energy efficient and might be able to do some of the jobs your big boys are handling now. Consider these if only for their tiny power requirements.

If you've got to go large, consider the ARM

There are plenty of reasons why an ARM server might work for your enterprise, but there are a few limitations as well. Compare this server with the other options on the market and see what works best for you.

Effective cooling techniques to reduce energy use, cost

Water, water everywhere

Before 1990, many mainframes employed water-cooling methods. With rising energy costs and growing resource requirements some data centers are turning to the past for ideas.

What's this free cooling I've heard about?

Free cooling, while not 100% free, is extremely effective at reducing energy needs in the right environment. There's a lot to consider before you take the leap, but in the right circumstances you can save a bundle.

Free cooling 101

Now that you've decided to try free cooling, how do you decide which kind to use? Here we elaborate on the different methods and how best to implement them in your data center. Remember: location is everything!

The three Ms of data center energy efficiency


This one is as straightforward as it gets. If you don't measure your data center's power usage effectiveness (PUE), you won't know how to reduce costs. The Green Grid has a white paper on the subject. It has updated the original to clarify some things. As always, there are some best practices to keep in mind.


Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools and hardware are vital to effectively keep track of power use. In order to effectively monitor power, you have to expand and monitor everything. Implementing a DCIM system is not without costs, but is vital to ensuring an energy-efficient data center.


You've measured and monitored, and made changes to reduce energy consumption based on those findings. How have you done that? By carefully managing resources both physical and virtual to make sure that power consumption stays low. Check out the management tools for the environmentally conscious data center.