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NASA eyes power management to cut data center energy consumption

By aggregrating data from disparate meters and monitors across its data centers, NASA hopes to meet an aggressive mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in federal facilities.

Tasked with dramatically reducing carbon emissions, NASA is deploying power management software from Power Assure to aggregate power consumption data from its 75 data centers.

NASA is working under executive order 13514, which requires up to a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The space agency started out with the premise that "you can't manage what you can't measure," said Chris C. Kemp, NASA CTO for information technology. "We wanted to make sure that the investments we made were targeted at the highest investment opportunities."

Power Assure's Dynamic Power Management software aggregates data from existing interfaces such as power distribution units and uninterruptible power supplies.

"There are a lot of existing meters and monitoring devices being used by local groups to manage local resources," Kemp said, but in many cases the data is not being collected.

Power Assure aggregates the data into a series of reports and dashboards that can be rolled up to look at power consumption across the agency. From there, "we can make strategic decisions about virtualization and consolidation," Kemp said.

It's getting hot in here
NASA began deploying Power Assure this year as part of a proof of concept and will roll it out agency-wide in the first half of 2011. Already, Kemp said some themes have emerged.

"We found situations where data centers are running too cold," Kemp said -- 65 degrees, compared with the 85 degrees or 90 degrees that industry associations now say is safe."By better understanding what infrastructure is there and how it is distributed, we can increase the temperature of our facilities to 85 degrees for substantial power savings."

In the short term, increasing operating temperatures will be an easier way to reduce energy usage than consolidation via virtualization.

"A lot of people are like, 'Let's virtualize this entire data center,' but that's not necessarily the right approach," Kemp said. "You tend to virtualize the low-utilization servers first; beyond that you want to be very strategic."

Dynamic power management through virtualization
On Monday, Power Assure announced Dynamic Power Management 3.5, which adds predictive analysis capabilities to the platform and expands the list and number of environment plug-ins for more than 10,000 items. The new version also adds configurable protocol plug-ins and provides enhanced integration with major system, network, inventory, and building management products.

In addition, Power Assure introduced Dynamic Power Optimization 1.0, which brings run book automation capabilities to the platform to dynamically shift loads and resize environments based on policy, through integration with power management functionality exposed in VMware, Citrix Systems, Xen and PowerVM virtualization environments.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, News Director at, or follow @aebarrett on twitter.

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