New regulations could change data center efficiency efforts
Monday, Aug 26th 2013

Data centers take up a considerable amount of energy to function and may now be affected by new laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including those generated from electric plants. Legislation from California, along with upcoming federal initiatives, could change the way that data centers strategize their energy use.

In California, data centers have some of the highest electricity consumption rates in the state, driving the motive behind the new law to improve energy-efficiency efforts. Under the new law, the state is required to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 by increments of 2 percent to 3 percent a year, according to Network World. Allowances will be given for every metric ton of gases emitted, and the permits can be bought and sold to accommodate plants that have difficulty cutting back.

How will data centers be affected?
The trickle down effect to data centers may show more energy-efficient hardware, virtualization and new cooling strategies. Policies set by California and the Obama administration's national climate action plan would raise operating expenses, although efficiency investments could offset energy cost increases, according to The Data Center Journal. The new regulations could also place more stress on businesses and consumers with higher compliance costs. Although alternative energy could generally help the electric grid, certain forms are sporadic and could cause harm to the data center if there are significant variations.

With the added rules, it could be more difficult to manage a data center while remaining compliant. Here are a few ways to help the equipment be in the proper conditions while meeting the new standards set by the laws:

  • Environmental control systems
    Now that the plan has been put into place, environmental control systems may be the answer to regulating the center. Not only could they ensure that the hardware is in the proper conditions, but they could also help organizations comply with the new regulations. The new recommended temperature has increased to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, however, the servers must still be in a cool enough environment to function. Having it be too warm could influence the humidity level and short the system or cause a fire.
  • Virtualize servers
    Another way to cool down the space is by virtualizing servers. This would take up less space with fewer physical servers and increase utilization to 40 or 50 percent, according to Network World. Having too many servers with low utilization can waste a lot of energy, but by putting multiple virtual servers in a physical one, it will create more efficient power use.
  • Proper cooling strategies
    Putting a lot of servers together in one space can cause significant cooling increases, however, using proper techniques will help keep the data center at the right temperature. Using outside ventilation to circulate the air can help take out the heat from the room and resupply the servers with optimal humidity and temperature conditions. Temperature monitoring will also give accurate measures for better decision making and increased efficiency.

With new laws coming to the forefront of energy-efficiency initiatives, their emergence will affect data centers and the way they are run. Making strategic utilization of environmental controls, virtualization and cooling practices will help organizations comply with the new rules without compromising how they run the data center.