Implementing an environmental monitor to eliminate system sprawl, modernize data center
Thursday, Jun 13th 2013

More major businesses are focusing on achieving efficiency in the data center than before, highlighted by recent news that tech giants Facebook and Google are pursuing green initiatives in the Arctic. According to MarketWatch's Benjamin Pimentel, Facebook recently turned on its new data center located on the edge of the Arctic Circle, designed to be especially environmentally friendly. Google also recently announced that it has agreed to purchase the entire energy output from a wind farm being constructed in Sweden, which will be used to power its Finland data center for 10 years. As these tech giants transcend upon the Arctic, some are wondering why this is such an attractive region.

"There's a cool climate, which is often useful for leveraging the open-air cooling," Greenpeace analyst Gary Cook said, according to the source. "There's stable government and a lot of renewable energy that could be leveraged."

Facebook explained that its new data center uses energy sources that are 100 percent renewable, and this combined with the Arctic climate has reduced the required amount of backup generators by 70 percent. Overheating is a particularly common problem in data center environments and cooling costs can really add up, so Facebook and Google are smart in their choices to utilize the cool Nordic region to essentially eliminate these costs.

According to the source, Facebook detailed that it is "using the chilly Nordic air to cool the thousands of servers that store your photos, videos, comments and Likes. Any excess heat that is produced is used to keep our office warm."

This does not eliminate the need for IT environmental monitoring, however. Just like any data center operation should, Facebook will need to implement a variety of sensors that enable oversight over the environmental conditions so that it may monitor power provisions accurately.

Monitoring and system sprawl
Many data centers today struggle with system sprawl, which is when numerous servers that are not fully utilized take up more space and consume more energy than their workloads justify. This happens as corporations attempt to make due with their unscalable legacy systems as data continues to accumulate in the age of big data.

Florin Dejeu, director of product management for SEPATON, further explored the problem of system sprawl in a recent article for Data Center Knowledge. He argued that it is a particularly advantageous approach for businesses to consolidate servers and backup appliances, implementing server room monitoring to effectively manage and cut costs.

"[A]dding, managing and using multiple backup systems is not practical or cost-efficient in today's fast-growing, complex data centers," Dejeu wrote. "Enterprise-class backup and recovery systems offer grid scalability, that is, the ability to add performance and/or capacity independently as you need it. This pay-as-you-grow model eliminates over-buying, reduces IT management time and enables you to store tens of petabytes of data in a single, consolidated backup appliance. Storing data in a single, optimized system has the additional benefits of enabling highly efficient, global de-duplication, and eliminating the need for load balancing and ongoing system-tuning."

While these types of upgrades can allow businesses to effectively modernize data center operations, the transformation is not complete without the implementation of environmental control systems and other monitoring tools. Data Center Knowledge contributor Bill Kleyman also recently touched on the topic, noting that while many companies today don't have the resources to build a new data center, companies can modernize their existing data center to make the most of their investments. He pointed to a recent whitepaper from Eaton Corporation which explained how modernizing a vintage data center's electrical infrastructure can be beneficial for businesses. According to Eaton, doing so can result in higher power and cooling capacities, lower operational expenses, greenhouse gas emissions reductions and improve availability of resources. Add in environmental monitoring, and these benefits are compounded.