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The changing conversation on energy efficiency: 5 steps to reduce power consumption in your data centre

Sumir Bhatia
Sumir BhatiaVice President, Data Centre Group, Asia Pacific at Lenovo.
As the leader for Lenovo’s Data Centre Group (DCG) in Asia Pacific, I’m responsible for driving substantial growth across the company’s computer, storage, networking, and services offerings in this fast-growing region. My role encompasses sales, strategic alliances, product, and go-to-market execution. I have a distinguished leadership track record over the past six years in the Asia Pacific region.

Follow me on twitter @Sumir_Bhatia

Originally published on LinkedIn

Economic commentators increasingly express a new mantra: that while developing markets used to follow mature economies, today they are compelled to leapfrog them.

To me, this statement has relevance and strong implications in the area of data centre management across Asia and the Pacific, particularly around energy consumption and efficiency.

The reasoning was twofold: lower your energy consumption expenses and assist the welfare of the planet.

Going back six or seven years, the tech industry witnessed a wave of energy-efficient technology hardware products that were more eco-friendly, aiming to reduce ongoing operating costs for IT infrastructure. The reasoning was twofold: lower your energy consumption expenses and assist the welfare of the planet.

This ‘greener’ technology hardware was a considerable talking point at this time. But the focus on green IT has since shifted somewhat to a newer data centre focus on software-defined-storage advances and hyperconvergence. Happily, with their approach to sharing resources and smart energy-aware software management, both of these initiatives help lower data centre energy consumption for organisations. This is, of course, good news.

A renewed focus on energy efficiency concerns in Asia

In the second half of 2016, I noticed a definitive shift: the positive rhetoric around energy efficiency has increased. The early focus on new data centre technology with little discussion around ‘green IT’ has been replaced with a louder dialogue and renewed focus back towards energy efficiency.

CIOs in India, for example, are now telling me that increasing power expenditure is their absolute biggest issue.

The reason is that, across Asian economies, power costs and associated real estate costs are out of control.

CIOs in India, for example, are now telling me that increasing power expenditure is their absolute biggest issue. Power and cooling costs have risen, and demand is driving the price rise.

It’s estimated by the World Energy Council that demand for electricity will double between 2015 and 2060, affecting the rising cost of energy. As the council points out, this is happening because technology-enabled urban lifestyles demand more electricity. In Asia’s developing markets, we see the growth of the middle class, rising incomes, and more electricity-enabled appliances and machines contributing to this demand.

It’s estimated by the World Energy Council that demand for electricity will double between 2015 and 2060, affecting the rising cost of energy.

Renewables will play their part in transforming the resources sector and many industries are planning for this now. A recent McKinsey report notes that by 2050, electricity will account for a quarter of all energy demand, compared with 18% today. More than three quarters (77%) of the additional power will be generated from wind and solar, 13% from natural gas, and the rest from everything else.

But where does that leave us today?

It’s not just energy costs which weigh on the minds of CIOs. The associated real estate costs for data centre space are also skyrocketing across Jakarta, Bangalore, Delhi and elsewhere in the region. Did you know Delhi is now more expensive than Sydney’s central business district dollar for dollar, square for square? It’s also more expensive than Paris!

Any bid to lower some of these power costs and achieve greater energy efficiency is, I believe, the major impetus for IT leaders to move toward a software-defined-storage and hyperconvergence strategy. And that is where the conversation has now shifted.

So where to from here? Running a data centre is a balancing act. These are spaces which can certainly require considerable power to run, and that won’t change anytime soon. Gartner estimates that from 2016, data centre power costs will increase by 10% every year, a consequence of increases in the cost per kilowatt-hour (kwh) and underlying demand, especially for high-power density servers.

5 steps to achieve better energy efficiency in your data centre

So how can you maximise your data centre energy efficiency and get a handle on rising costs? You need a power consumption reduction strategy. Here are five steps you can take:

1.    Eliminate unnecessary workloads, consolidate virtual machines, and replace old inefficient servers with new ones.

2.    If you can, reduce the unnecessary space in your data centre requiring cooling, or use a modular design for new spaces so you only power what you need organically.

3.    Lower cooling requirements by using air economisers, isolation structures to funnel out excess heat, and smarter air con strategies which use less power.

4.    Eliminate outdated power delivery systems which can negatively impact your power use.

5.    Use data centre infrastructure management software to monitor and manage energy consumption of all IT equipment.

I’m interested in your experiences in managing energy consumption costs in your data centre. If you feel inclined, please share your stories or observations in the comments below or find me on Twitter!

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