Ageing hardware is driving up your datacentre costs, businesses warned

Datacentres need to upgrade their hardware every three years if they want to save money on energy bills, an expert has claimed.
Written by Sam Shead, Contributor

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.

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