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That’s not so cool, is it?

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With bog standard air conditioning taking up around 40% of a data centre’s entire power, you can imagine the myriad of new more advanced methods, despite their ‘green credentials’ are sucking up a heck of a lot more than that.

So, you’d think cooling would be where data centres might focus on gleaning the most energy savings, which is what I had thought, until now.

I was under the impression data centres were doing a fantastical job of being advocates in the fight against climate change, doing their bit to ensure their facilities weren’t unnecessarily adding to this already pretty dire environmental situation in which we find ourselves.

But, new research from EkkoSense has helpfully analysed the actual cooling performance within live data centres across many of the world’s leading brands. Research that has revealed the data centre sector is potentially overlooking Co2-eq emissions savings of over three million tonnes.

EkkoSense analysis indicates that organisations are missing proven opportunities to cut their data centre cooling energy consumption by 30%.

And all this new-fangled expensive cooling equipment with all the bells and whistles? Well apparently, 60% of this equipment installed is not actually delivering any active cooling benefits.

EkkoSense assessed cooling performance across a sample of some 133 data centre halls with analysis of over 33,000 IT racks. The results showed that the current average data centre cooling utilisation level is only 40%.

The research also identified that implementing an effective thermal optimisation programme has collectively secured a cumulative 10MW+ cooling power saving – which equates to a minimum $10 million cooling energy cost saving since deployment. In carbon terms, this equates to a cumulative saving of around 20,000 tonnes CO2-eq emissions.

So what does this mean? It means – according to EkkoSense – that this level of performance optimisation, when applied to a broader estate of 22,474 midsize, enterprise and larger hyperscale data centres, suggests that potential worldwide cooling energy savings of over $1.7 billion are possible.

An overall carbon emissions reduction of some 3.38 million tonnes CO2-eq worldwide could also be possible, simply by applying the systematic and synchronised application of data centre cooling optimisation best practices on a global basis.

Mark Acton, a leading data centre technical and standards consultant and an EkkoSense non-executive director, commented, “With data centres already established as one of the world’s highest collective consumers of energy, it’s imperative that IT operations teams do everything they can to deliver the quick carbon reduction wins that will help organisations to deliver on their net zero commitments.”

“The good news is that with the latest generation of software-driven data centre optimisation solutions there’s a real opportunity for organisations to achieve significant carbon reductions.”

Anuraag Saxena, data centre optimisation manager at EkkoSense added, “Data centre operators also need to recognise that optimising thermal performance positively impacts data centre risk management – however it’s difficult to ask the right questions if you don’t actually have any granular visibility into how your individual racks and cooling equipment are performing.” 

“From our research we know that only 5% of data centre M&E teams currently monitor and report equipment temperature actively on an individual rack-by-rack basis – and even less collect real-time cooling duty information or conduct any formal cooling resilience tests.”

Due to this general lack of best practice, it’s hardly surprising that the results spoke for themselves. At any given time around 10-15% of data centre racks were actually well out of ASHRAE thermal compliance.

“Indeed, EkkoSense’s in-depth analysis of data centre thermal performance shows that it’s now possible to secure cooling energy consumption reductions of around a third simply by following current thermal optimisation best practices,” concluded Mark Acton.

So, want to save money and emissions in your facility? The expert opinion? Simply try your best.

This editorial originally appeared in the Data Centre Review Newsletter February 12, 2021. To ensure you receive these editorials direct to your inbox, you can subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

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