One thing holds true when it comes to data center sustainability: It’s a delicate balancing act. To be efficient, you must reduce waste without getting rid of too much. It needs to handle emerging technology without over-provisioning. Energy-efficiency measures can’t negatively impact operations.
This summer, we led a LinkedIn Live event featuring Belden’s Director of Data Center Sales Chrissy Olsen, Technology Solutions Architect Henry Franc and myself. Together, we explored the state of data center sustainability and ways you can improve your own space. In a previous blog, we summarized three true stories about data center sustainability that were revealed during this event.
In this blog, we share five tips to improve sustainability in your next data center project—no matter what it involves.
1. Let Business Function Drive Data Center Design
To get data center design right, it’s important to start not with conversations about power and cooling per square foot, but instead about what the data center needs to support, which users will consider the data most important and where those users will be when they consume it.
In the past year and a half, for example, we’ve designed edge data centers for many hospitals that needed emergency facilities and alternate care sites set up for COVID-19 recovery. But the requirements for these data center spaces are much different than the data center demands of traditional hospital facilities.
Once you understand the applications and technologies the data center will support, then you can design the infrastructure accordingly. This leads to an inherently sustainable design.
2. Put Scalability at the Forefront
Planning for future loads, even in a new data center, is critical. Trends such as big data, AI and machine learning will amp up your IT loads and call for more power and cooling—even if they’re not doing so yet.
Data center designs that span multiple generations of equipment can reduce costs and waste. You won’t have to upgrade or replace cabling infrastructure, cabinets or power infrastructure every time new IT gear is installed to support emerging technology.
Planning scalable designs at the forefront allows for fast data center upgrades and backward compatibility down the road without requiring full system teardowns.
3. Right-Size the Space
While almost everyone knows the risks involved with under-provisioning (bandwidth and latency problems, for starters), it’s important to note that over-provisioning can be just as risky.
Although it may be tempting to over-provision to avoid running short on resources, stocking up on storage, capacity and/or bandwidth to handle unexpected spikes can lead to downtime and outages. Over-provisioning can also happen unintentionally if operators don’t have true visibility into data center demands. (We read one study that says data center operators build three data centers for every two they actually need.)
This goes back to what we mentioned earlier: A data center for a temporary triage hospital should be designed much differently than a data center for a cellular carrier that needs to support 5G.) Right-sizing your data center gives you enough capacity for applications and business functions without reserving capacity that may never be used.
4. Consider the Type of Power You Use
Power is more—or less—efficient based on the type you deliver to your server or switch gear.
Across the United States, 480V power is typically brought into most data center facilities. From there, the voltage is stepped down or converted to either 208V or 120V to power data center equipment (servers, switches, storage systems, etc.).
To convert this power, data centers rely on three-phase transformers. These transformers generate heat and increase cooling requirements. Every time the voltage level steps down, efficiency is lost.
480V power at the rack level for active gear requires a different power supply than the standard 100V to 240V auto-sensing units used primarily today. A 480V power distribution uses a 277V power supply, which is custom for many equipment manufacturers.
A move to 415V power uses the standard active gear power supply while still providing more efficiency. It also lowers amperage use at the rack level. For instance, a 208V three-phase 60-amp rack PDU provides 17.2 kW of useable power on a 60-amp circuit. A 415V 30-amp circuit provides the same amount of usable power on a smaller circuit, along with more efficient power delivery and less heat generated at the step down.
5. Revisit Initial Design Plans
Depending on the type of data center project you’re dealing with—a core facility or an edge strategy, for example—your data center project may be in development for years.
The project will kick off with a needs assessment to determine current capacity, challenges and requirements and then move into discussions about initial design requirements.
Once construction and commissioning are complete, however, lots of time has passed (a few years, in some cases!). At this point, it’s crucial to ensure that the assumptions made at the beginning of the project are still correct. Did the business model change? Is new technology being introduced that we didn’t know about before? Have workflows shifted? If there have been changes, then you may need to revisit the data center’s operational model.
Your Sustainability Partner
Belden’s holistic data center solutions range from power and cooling to security, access control, monitoring and more.
Whatever your requirements, we've got you covered. Our rapid deployment combines with scalable, flexible and space-saving solutions to simplify your projects. Populate cages, bring clients on quickly and scale expansions without compromising on always-available connectivity.
You can count on Belden for worry-free, reliable and cost-effective systems that support your data transmission needs while providing the quality and service your customers trust.
Want to hear more sustainability insights from me and my colleagues? Listen to the 30-minute LinkedIn Live session here (make sure you’re logged in to LinkedIn). If you have questions about data center sustainability, how to get started or what you should consider as you move toward sustainability, send me a note. I’d be happy to help.