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Data center managers plan for power density jumps

A survey by the Data Center Users Group finds that data center managers are designing facilities to accommodate twice as much power per rack than they do on average today.

A recent survey of Emerson Network Power and Liebert data center users found that respondents plan to double the power densities in their racks in future facilities.

The Data Center Users Group survey asked about 120 data center managers questions on data center efficiency. Energy efficiency is now one of the top three concerns for nearly half (47%) of survey respondents, a result that surveys over the past year or so have confirmed. In a similar survey by the Data Center Users Group (DCUG) four years ago, energy efficiency was hardly ever listed as a top concern.

Among the findings was that data center managers now design future facilities to handle 15 kW per rack on average, more than double the 7.4 kW-per-rack average today.

Langan Engineering & Environmental Services is one company that has built more efficient facilities. The Elmwood Park, N.J.-based engineering firm specializes in designing environmentally friendly buildings for clients, so doing the same itself was a priority. By combining blade servers, virtualization technologies, and new power and cooling equipment, Langan reduced its data center footprint from five racks to four. Because the total power envelope hasn't changed, the density per rack has increased by 25%.

Data center concerns

Though power was definitely a prime concern for Data Center Users Group survey respondents, other topics were broached as well. Some of the findings were the following:

  • 61% were cutting their budget, and 35% were delaying capital projects.
  • 46% said adequate monitoring was a top three concern.
  • The average kW per rack has increased from 6 to 7.4 over the past three years, a more than 20% jump.
  • Data center managers have improved efficiency through airflow improvements such as blanking panels and hot-aisle cold-aisle containment and by using variable cooling that responds to need rather than going full blast all the time.
  • The top concern of data center managers was heat density, which hasn't changed in five years.

"We had to delay turning on the blades because I had 7-year-old AC units that were really not designed for a data center," said Mike Breen, Langan's IT manager. "The new Liebert system is saving us about $5,000 a year in energy bills. We figured the payback would be about five years."

The cooling infrastructure is also built to handle additional density as necessary, which is good, because Breen said the HP c7000 blade chasses he has are only about half-full right now. Langan also bought a scalable uninterruptible power supply system from Liebert that can increase capacity just by using software to unlock it, rather than having to install all new hardware.

"It gives me the ability to upgrade the system with a software key. It gives me that scalability, and I think that's kick-ass," Breen said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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