Data center cooling: The bright side comes in 2011

Worried about power costs in your data center? Feeling squeezed by the power company?
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Worried about power costs in your data center? Feeling squeezed by the power company? Dreaming of modular designs and airflow at night? Well, relief is on the way--in four years or so.

This is the bright side--Gartner style. On Thursday, Gartner analyst Michael Bell outlined a few data center tips and factoids worth considering. Among the nuggets at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo:

  • By 2008, half of the current data centers won't have the power or cooling capacity to deal with their equipment. Translation: You're toast.
  • In 2009, power and cooling will be your second biggest data center cost. Most of you are there already and for companies like Google power costs are the top expense. 
  • But by 2011, technology--primarily better cooling strategies, more efficient chips, DC power, in-server cooling and real-time monitoring--will ride to the rescue at least to the point where you'll be able to sleep. 

Blade servers are good (sort of). If you think blade servers racked and stacked are a data center fix you're only half right. The blade-a-thon results in denser data centers and more computing power. That's fine and dandy, but now you need more juice to cool things down. Eventually this works out--as technology rides to the rescue. Gartner recommends doing an energy audit to see what your blade servers really consume. Then you can at least make up for the power loss elsewhere (another reason for green IT practices). See chart below:


Since those costs stink, Gartner is advising that technology folks spend time designing their cooling system. Maybe the next boom market will be in air conditioning design.

And a few more items to ponder as these cooling issues get worked out.  

  • Up your data center temperature from 70 degrees to 74 and humidity levels from 45 percent to 50 percent.
  • Measure your server energy efficiency. This is getting easier given that the EPA has given some guidance on the topic. Deeper measurements are hard to come by.
  • Grill your data center hosting company on energy efficiency. This is an important point that I'd bet few companies are doing. Customers should make energy efficiency a priority since your hosting company is only going to pass those costs along.
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