(50) Energy Saving Tips for the Data Center

It’s a simple truth – “Big Data” produces big power bills.  In many areas the cost of data center energy for ongoing operatons is equal to the purchase cost of IT equipment itself.  In today’s economy “going green” offers some very attractive incentives for saving money through conservation practices, as well as a side benefit of helping save the planet we all live on.

The following is a collection of tips to save power in the data center.  Some are simply common sense and others take time, knowledge, and a budgetary commitment to implement.  As many of these as possible should be incorporated into an energy optimization culture that continually searches for ways to reduce power consumption and the associated cooling requirements.

1.  Purchase Energy Efficient Disk Technology

A new generation of disk drives feature such advanced capabilities as optimized caching, intelligent control circuitry, energy optimized motors, and other power reduction techniques.  Not only ask for energy efficient equipment for your projects, but ensure your purchasing department is aware of the differences and importance to your organization

2.  Create a Tiered Storage System

Assigning data to different classes of disk subsystems, based on the value of the information can result in significant energy savings. Solid-state disks and lower RPM disks drives consume far less power-per-TB than standard disks.

3.  Automated, Policy-Based Migration

This software utility is a major enabler for multi-tiered storage. It monitors file characteristics and will automatically migrate data “behind the scenes” to an appropriate class of disk once a specific set of criteria is met.

4.  Implement Storage Virtualization

Virtualization creates an abstraction of physical storage and allows the servers to see available disk as one large storage pool. It provides access to all available storage, offers greater flexibility and simplifies the management of heterogeneous subsystems.

5.  Employ Thin Provisioning

Databases and some applications require a contiguous storage space assigned for future growth. Thin provisioning facilitates the allocation of virtual storage, which will appear as a contiguous physical storage to the database.

6.  Power Down Inactive Equipment

Unused systems and storage that has been left running in a data center will continue to consume power and generate heat without providing any useful work.  An assumption that “someone might need to access it” is a poor reason for leaving inactive equipment up and running 365-days per year.

7.  Retire Legacy Systems

Outdated equipment can be another big consumer of energy.  Develop a program to annually retire aging storage that contains low-capacity disks, inefficient circuit components, and little or no power conservation circuitry.

8.  Optimize Raid Array Configuration

Legacy RAID5 3+1 or high performance RAID10 configurations that are not warranted waste large amounts of capacity and power with little tangible benefit.  Selective deployment of RAID technology increases usable space and reduces power/cooling requirements.

9.  Clean Out Unwanted Data

Over time, systems become a retirement home for unused files, core dumps, outdated logs, roll-back files, non work-related content, and other unnecessary information.  Files can be automatically scanned to identify and remove unwanted or outdated data that provides no value to the company.

10.  Clean Up File Systems

Like data, file systems and directories should be periodically scanned to ensure that defunct applications, outdated directories, and temporary updates have been purged from storage.

11.  Periodically Update I/O Firmware

Manufacturers regularly improve their firmware to ensure bugs are fixes, security holes are patched, and performance is optimized.   Current firmware ensures that controllers work at optimal efficiency.  Less work that must be done may translate into less power consumption.

12.  Clean Up the Backup Process

Examine the backup schedule and exclusion lists to ensure all identified areas are still relevant.  Your backup system may be regularly processing and backing up directories that contain obsolete files, irrelevant directories (i.e.- /temp), or system content that never changes.

13.  Replace Missing Floor Tiles and Blank Panels

Missing floor tiles and equipment rack filler panels reduce the positive cooling pressure produced by the cooling system and can significantly disrupt airflow patterns through rack-mounted equipment.

14. Eliminate Air Pressure Blockage

Also check under the raised floor for collections of debris that can restrict airflow going to, or through equipment racks.  The harder an air conditioning system must work to move air through a facility, the more energy will be consumed.

15.  Increase Temperature and Humidity Settings

Confirm temperature and humidity are set to the correct levels.  Evaluate equipment manufacturer’s specifications to ensure all settings do not go exceed manufacturer recommendations.

16. Turn Off Video Monitors

If video monitors are not in use, they should be turned off.  Monitors are usually left on 24-hrs a day whether they’re being used or not, consuming power and generating heat without providing value.

17.  Minimize/Eliminate Server  Internal Disk Drives

Servers are usually purchased with internal disks installed for the operating system, binaries, swap space, and other system needs. Whenever practical, eliminate internal disks by using Boot-from-SAN technologies to better utilize capacity and more efficiently manage power consumption.

18.  Reclaim Orphaned LUNS

Storage tends to collect areas of allocated, but unused or abandoned storage space over time. Periodic review and reclamation of these spaces can result in significant storage savings.

19.  Revise Data Retention Policy

An organizational policy of “save everything” is usually the worst of approaches.  Implement a program of saving only data that has verified business value, or is necessary to retain for litigation protection and regulatory compliance.

20. Increase User Consumption Awareness

End-users bad habits can have a significant impact on storage consumption. Educate users on the value of content management, space utilization, and data cleanup once a file is no longer needed.

21. Facilities Operational Staff Training

Every operational staff member should be trained in the proper operation of equipment, conservation methods, and the energy optimization objective established by the organization.  Energy management must be a part of the corporate culture.

22. Require Periodic Performance Optimization

A poorly performing server, fabric, or storage structures will consume additional power and cooling.  Periodic performance tuning efforts will optimize server and storage operations and achieve the same goals while requiring the systems to do less work..

23. Disk Spares Assignment

Over-provisioning of disk spares consumes storage resources without adding measurable value.  Storage industry best practices recommend one disk spare for every 30-32 disks.  RAID array selection may dictate more or less need to be allocated.  Follow manufacturer recommendations for spares.

24. High Efficiency Power Supplies

High efficiency power supplies offer improved efficiency of 60-70% to over 90%. In most circumstances there are exact replacements for most popular systems and storage power supplies.

25. Channel Port Speed Optimization

Implementation of high speed ports and following recommended fan-out ratios allow you to provide an appropriate amount of bandwidth with a minimum number of resources, which translates into lower power and cooling demands.

26. High Capacity Disk Drives

Advanced disk development is dramatically increasing physical disk capacity.  As long as IOPS (I/Os per second) is not a requirement, larger disks of the same rotational speed can be deployed to double or even triple capacity for the same energy consumption.

27. Centralize Storage Management

Over time, management tools offering point-solutions tend to proliferate, along with servers and storage.  Centralization and consolidation of management tools into comprehensive suites can eliminate multiple under-utilized monitors and reduce excess power consumption.

28. Use Electronically Commutated Motors

Wherever possible, replace condensing units or fan powered boxes using mechanical brushes with electronically commutated motors.  Eliminating the brush mechanism and adding automatic turn-down circuitry found in most EC Motors can yield a reduction in power consumption of up to 45%.

29. Equipment Consolidation

Legacy servers and storage systems have proliferated over the past two decades.  Frequent over-provisioning of systems leads to servers and storage that are grossly underutilized. Consolidation permits additional legacy systems to be retired.

30. Deploy Arrays Built from 2.5 Inch Drives

Three or more 2.5 inch disk can fit in the same physical space as one 3.5 inch drive.  They have a much smaller spinning mass, so they can provide twice the storage capacity for the same power consumption.

31. Real-Time Data Compression

Some primary storage systems can perform real-time compression on the data stream. For certain types of data this can produce a reduction of 2:1 or more in the amount of storage space consumed.

32. Manage Data Copy Proliferation

Without careful monitoring, duplicate copies of data proliferate like rabbits.  IT management should review each department’s data requirements and ensure only a reasonable number of copies exist.

33. Data De-duplication

This backup technology identifies patterns in the data stream and replaces duplicate data with a pointer to the original copy. This can significantly reduce the amount of disk backup space required.

34. Data Classification

This is a process that categorizes different types of information by business value.  Once this process has been completed, data can be assigned an appropriate levels of disk performance and cost.

35. Solid-State Drives

Solid-state disk dramatically reduce power consumption by eliminating electro-mechanical components and rotating platters.  SSD power consumption is miniscule when compared to traditional disk drives.

36. MAID Technology

Maid technology powers down the storage array to an idle state if no activity has been detected within a specific period of time. They are valuable when infrequently accessed data is involved.

37. Use High-Capacity Tape Drives

High-capacity tape drives will hold larger amounts data and when installed in tape libraries, minimize the number of cartridge changes.  Since a robotic arm is an electromechanical device, minimizing tape changes reduces the amount of energy consumed by the tape library.

38. Convert to Direct DC Power

Significant energy loss occurs when AC power goes through multiple conversion steps between the initial distribution point and the system power supply.  Converting to (or designing for) direct DC power directly to the equipment racks can save up to 30% in power consumption.

39. Capacity on Demand

Avoid deploying Capacity-on-Demand capabilities unless absolutely required.  Inactivated processors, memory, and other resources typically consume energy without providing additional business value until an activation license is provided.

40. Consider Storage-as-a-Service

If your operational model supports it, consider migrating some storage requirements to the Cloud.  When storage is purchased from an external provider, organizations pay only for the storage they use and therefore are only charged for the energy necessary to run storage capacity they’ve purchased.

41. Consolidation of NAS Systems

NAS storage has proliferated within most organizations, due to their modest cost, installation flexibility, and ease of deployment.  Consolidation of multiple stand-alone units into larger NAS storage will improve efficiency, simplify management, and minimize power consumption.

42. Greater use of Granular Scaling

Select storage equipment that facilitates scaling capacity in relatively small increments.  Installing full frames of disk storage before its capacity is required consumes large amounts of power without adding any business value.

43. Consolidate SAN Fabrics

Consolidation multiple SAN fabrics into a single shared SAN fabric to eliminates switch/director duplication, simplifies manageability and increases device utilization.

44. Continuous Data Streaming to Tape

Ensure the backup streams sent to tape devices are robust enough to allow continuous streaming, rather than requiring frequent start and stops.  Also configure disk pools to consolidate data and ensure tape drives can be driven at maximum speed for the shortest period possible.  Streaming data to tape requires less energy and significantly reduces the backup period.

45. Back Up to Tape Media

Disk pools for backup are recommended for speed and efficiency, but inactive data should be off-loaded to tape media as soon as possible to minimize energy consumption.  Once it has been written to tape, data can be archived for future use without consuming power or occupying spinning disk space.

46. Equipment Rack Height

Increasing equipment rack height by a few inches lowers the total number of installed power supplies installed in the racks.  Replacing 42U racks with 45U racks will add 3U per frame and free up expensive data center floor-space for 6 additional frames per 100 racks.

47. Update Legacy Lighting Systems

Update legacy lighting systems to modern, energy efficient technology and install occupancy sensors in the data center to ensure lighting is only being used as required.

48. Adopt a Cold Aisle/Hot Isle Configuration

Creating a designated cold/hot isle system works more efficiently by preventing hot and cold air from mixing.  With a Cold/Hot isle organization, cold air is directed into the equipment racks on one side while hot air is purged from the other.

49. Use Ambient Air For Cooling

Using ambient air for cooling takes advantage of the differential between local atmospheric temperature levels and the heat generated by electronic equipment.  If relatively dry air is present and temperatures are moderate, it may be advantageous to leverage prevailing conditions for cooling, rather than being total dependent upon mechanical cooling systems.

50. Measure Your Power Consumption

According to Peter Drucker, ““What gets measured, gets managed.”  If you don’t set clear objectives and deploy the proper measurement tools to track your progress, there is a very good chance you’ll never achieve your company’s energy reduction goals.

As with many things, “your mileage may vary” when implementing any of the above tips.  Start with the easiest and most obvious, then work forward from there.  And as mentioned above, make energy conservation a part of your operational culture.  Escalating energy costs and higher power demands are problems that will probably not go away in the foreseeable future.

About Big Data Challenges

Mr. Randy Cochran is a Senior Storage Architect at Data Center Enhancements Inc.. He has over 42-years of experience as an IT professional, with specific expertise in large and complex SAN/NAS/DAS storage architectures. He is recoginzed as a Subject Matter Expert in the enterprise storage field. For the past five years his primary focus has been on addressing the operational requirements and challenges presented by petabyte-level storage.

Posted on March 19, 2012, in Infrastructure and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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