The 5 quickest returns on your green investment

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Use supplemental cooling units

Sun promised its users new and more efficient servers if they were able to consolidate their physical hardware onto virtual machines by at least a 2:1 ratio. The company also updated its approach to data center design. Traditional design calls for bulky computer room air conditioners (CRAC) units that are placed on the perimeter of the floor to move large amounts of air around the data center. Instead, Sun used in-row or supplemental cooling units from American Power Conversion (APC) and Emerson Network Power.

The APC in-row units typically enclose a row or two of servers, and the backs of all the servers are pointed into a single 'hot' aisle. Heat in the aisle is contained by a roof and end-row doors, allowing cooling to be applied directly to the heat source, rather than trying to cool after the heat is dispersed into the general data center floor.

For its part, the Emerson Liebert XDV system is attached directly over a row of server racks, again bringing maximum cooling directly to the heat source.

The close-proximity cooling approach is between 20% and 30% more efficient than a traditional CRAC implementation, Sun's Monroe says. Use of the new cooling equipment also allowed Sun to build 80% of the data center without the need for raised flooring. Traditional data center design calls for at least 50% of raised-floor space.

Measure and optimize

For the past two years, The Green Grid has grown from 11 founding members to a consortium of more than 150 companies working to improve data-center energy efficiency. Within the year, the group is expected to release some of its most important deliverables in the form of metrics that businesses will be able to use to measure the power usage effectiveness (PUE) of specific equipment including servers. It will also create a data center infrastructure efficiency (DCiE) metric that will allow the measurement of data center productivity.

The metrics are expected to simplify the process of efficiently designing and operating a data center. But most businesses can already readily identify areas where infrastructure optimization can achieve increased efficiency by simply monitoring and measuring their existing infrastructure equipment, says Larry Vertal, a Green Grid director and senior strategist for Green Grid member company AMD.

Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency is stepping in to help create metrics as well. About 100 companies have already said they will provide raw power data and other information to the EPA for use in developing its new benchmark, which should be available in about two years, the agency said.

Until widely accepted metrics become available, businesses should make sure the utility costs associated with their data center operations are broken out separately from those for other corporate facilities. In addition, metering specific equipment racks or types of equipment such as servers can provide valuable insight into which specific consolidation, virtualization and optimization projects would yield the best ROI going forward.

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