Ageing hardware is driving up your datacentre costs, businesses warned

Ageing hardware is driving up your datacentre costs, businesses warned

Summary: Datacentres need to upgrade their hardware every three years if they want to save money on energy bills, an expert has claimed.


Businesses should carry out hardware upgrades every three years to make their datacentres more efficient and reduce power consumption - but are currently leaving old hardware in place for much longer. 

Datacentre hardware should be replaced on these timescales if businesses want to avoid paying extra on their energy bills due to the inefficiencies that creep in as hardware ages said Professor Ian Bitterlin, a consulting engineer and a datacentre energy expert.

But UK businesses currently upgrade their hardware every five years while the public sector works on a timescale of eight to 10 years, according to Bitterlin.

"If you refresh your hardware frequently risks of air contamination affecting your datacentre will be minimal," he told ZDNet.

"Take off the components, clean the board, put the latest components on and the latest chip and shove it back in the system. It's expensive from a cap ex point of view because you have to come up with the budget but it saves you a lot of money."

UK organisations do not realise that in three years they spend as much on cooling inefficient and poorly performing servers as they would on buying new hardware, Bitterlin said, speaking at the Datacentre World 2013 conference.

Every time datacentres change servers, they cut their power consumption by half and double capacity at the same time, he said. 

While cash-strapped companies can't always replicate the aggressive hardware lifecycles of tech giants, they should still aim to reduce the shelf life of their hardware when possible, said Bitterlin. 

"Any datacentre manager keeping their hardware for more than three years is crazy," he said.

Improved efficiency

Replacing hardware on a regular basis makes datacentres more efficient, which can help reduce energy bills and drive down the power usage effectiveness (PUE) of datacentres. 

A PUE of 2.0 means that for every watt of IT power, an additional watt is consumed to cool and distribute power to the IT equipment while a PUE closer to 1.0 means nearly all of the energy is used for computing.

Google has managed to make its datacentres some of the most efficient in the world and has an average PUE of 1.12 across all its datacentres. 

According to the Uptime Institute's 2012 Data Centre Survey, the global average PUE is between 1.8 and 1.89.

"A low PUE is important if you're the customer, it's your own facility and you're really interested in only energy efficiency or low energy solutions," said Bitterlin. "As soon as you're interested in uptime and reputation and continuous service, you're not going to be able to get down to that really low PUE."

Businesses should aim for datacentres that are the best in their class, argued Bitterlin. He said banks using energy intensive tier III or IV facilities should aim for a PUE of 1.4 because they need high levels of redundancy. Meanwhile, he said enterprises should aim for 1.2 or 1.25.

Topics: Data Centers, Google, United Kingdom

Sam Shead

About Sam Shead

Sam is generally at his happiest with a new piece of technology in his hands or nailing down an exclusive story. In the past he's written for The Engineer and the Daily Mail. These days, Sam is particularly interested in emerging technology, datacentres, cloud, storage and web start-ups.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Refurbished computers are a smart buy

    Older IT hardware probably does technically use a little more power, but consider that the greatest use of energy is in the manufacture....this is a fact.
    BCDElectrostore has very good prices and quality refurbished computers. Check em out.
  • The question is how long it takes to "save" the money

    As the article points out, there are large capital costs that are involved in replacing equipment, especially if you're replacing it at or prior to the point that you've stopped accounting for its depreciation in the general ledger. The problem is how long it takes the energy savings to offset those capital costs.

    Consider it from a personal perspective. Let's say you want to replace the big-ticket items in your house that use electricity with more energy-efficient models: washer, dryer, refrigerator, dishwasher, & 2 TVs; we'll leave the desktop PC out (newer PC tech primarily gives you more processing/storage capability for the same power usage, so you can't really save on electricity), as well as any potential gaming systems (again, you're not going to see power savings by switching to the latest model). That's roughly $1000 USD for the fridge, $500-1000 USD apiece for the washer & dryer, & about $300-500 for the dishwasher, for a grand total of $2,300 - $3,500 USD. So, you get all of these new appliances, wait 30 days, & your electric bill shows up, showing you saved 50% (probably a high estimate)....except that that translates to a savings of only $25 [based on my monthly electric bill]. Congratulations, it's going to take you at least *92 months* (almost 8 years), possibly as many as *140 months* (almost 12 years) to recoup the costs.

    And that's for low-priced consumer appliances. We're not talking about high-end server hardware that already has high power consumption rates anyway. So, if you're supposed to be replacing it every 3 years, that means you have 36 months to recoup the cost. In other words...for every $1,080 USD a company spends on replacing the hardware, its monthly electrical bill has to drop $30 USD *at a minimum* in order to break even. Stretch the replacement out to 5 years, though, & you only have to reduce your costs by $18 USD each month.