Five ways to improve data center power efficiency you might not have thought of

From airflow to zombie servers, Switch executive says you might be missing some key power suckers

LAS VEGAS -- While few doubt the importance of maximizing the energy efficiency of their corporate data centers, executive vice president of data center technology for Las Vegas-based Switch, Mark Thiele's talk at Interop this week showcased just how much companies might still be missing. 

INTEROP: Interop panelists debate future of physical WAN optimizers

He cited five big areas to focus on including:

1. Understand airflow

Thiele says that basic thermodynamics makes the raised floor model less efficient than it could be. Given that cold air tends to sink, while warm air tends to rise, he asserts, "why would you push cold air from the bottom?"

2. Get rid of zombie servers

If there are legacy machines still running in the data center and nobody knows they're there, do they still draw power? Absolutely. Thiele says that taking careful inventory can reveal "zombie servers" that companies might not even know they still had.

3. Efficiency at the cost of capacity isn't really efficiency

While it's tempting to work as hard as possible on minimizing power draw, teams that slash their capabilities in order to do so severely reduce the potential return on investment that they can provide. "IT's opportunity is to help the business make more money. ... If using more power to do it makes sense, then you should be doing it," Thiele says.

4. Don't sweat the humidity/temp...

More recent generations of data center equipment don't need to be kept quite as cold as their predecessors, Thiele asserts. "As long as most of your gear is less than four years old, take a wild leap and go to 75 degrees," he advises. "Open up your bandwidth for humidification to 15 and 70, instead of 45 and 60, or something tight like it's been historically."

5. ...but do sweat the small stuff

"You can't touch the paint on the walls without potentially affecting the performance of your data center," according to Thiele. Everything from the size of the doorways to the height of the floors and the presence (or, hopefully, absence) of dust in the air can be a major factor in determining how efficiently a facility operates.

Thiele, it should be clear by now, is very serious indeed about data center power efficiency.

On one occasion, "I actually left my wife and daughter at a campsite in Point Reyes," in order to drive an hour and a half to fix a problem, he says.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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