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How yellow hosting went green

'Going green' is all the rage. An Inconvenient Truth, Live Earth Concert, and a continuous stream of stories in the media have put the environment and our taxing of it squarely on centre stage in pop culture.

Little did most know it, but when it comes to efforts in energy efficiency, the IT industry has been hip for a while now, yet not because a bunch of hemp wearing hippies steer our industry. Rather, because our industry is, in part, driven by the bottom line – and power is only getting more expensive.

Computing capacity is becoming increasingly dense and increasingly power hungry, and the focal points of this usage are our modern data centres. With a single rack of servers able to consume the power of 10-30 homes, even a small data centre now has the power footprint of entire neighbourhoods or small towns.

As you might imagine, this kind of power consumption gets very expensive and chews like a Rottweiler into the bottom line. What’s Intergen Hosting’s defence against this attack on operating costs? We’ve grown some dreadlocks and adopted the principles of our hippie brethren. Over the past 18 months, Intergen Hosting has aggressively moved towards improving our energy efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint – and we found a set of guidelines that offer great advice: The Green Grid.

The Green Grid defines itself as “…a non-profit organisation of IT professionals formed to address the issues of power and cooling in data centres. The Green Grid seeks to define best practices for optimising the efficient consumption of power at the IT equipment and facility levels…”

The first two steps we recommend for anyone else trying to “go green” are:

1)    Shift the power bill to IT’s cost centre
2)    Measure your baseline PUE

No one likes to pay the power bill, especially if you didn’t use the power.  If the larger business or facilities management team picks up the power tab for IT, then the guys in IT have the tendency to be about as reserved as a drunken sailor. IT managers often have no idea what their power bill is and, given the trends in computing and the price of electricity, we are quickly approaching the day when the single largest operational cost will be power – a cost that can even eclipse that of all IT equipment over the life of a data centre. The first step in reducing power usage should be shifting the power bill of IT to IT, giving IT a monthly reminder of their real impact on the bottom line.

The Green Grid is doing what any professional organisation should: pushing for metrics. With future desires to define IT equipment’s “fuel efficiency”, similar to your car, The Green Grid has started small with a basic metric:  Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE).

PUE = Total Facility Power / IT Equipment Power


IT Equipment is defined as your servers, KVMs, SANs, etc (basically the kit doing the computing work) – not your coolers, lights, fans, UPSs, or PDUs. As the PUE is always a positive number greater than one, it easily illustrates how much power your facility needs relative to the power of a specific device (e.g. if your PUE is 3 then your facility consumes 1500 watts to power a 500 watt server).

These metrics are vital to determine how efficient your facility is – by baselining now you can determine two things: the true power cost of implementing new kit within your facility and how your changes affect that efficiency. And it’s easy! Just measure the power feed into your facility and divide it by the power feed into your racks.

The other great part of the PUE is that it represents an awareness of efficiency – a good PUE is both good for the world and good for your wallet. According to The Green Grid: “Some preliminary work indicates that many data centres may have a PUE of 3.0 or greater, but with proper design a PUE value of 1.6 should be achievable.” 

Intergen Hosting is proud to say that we have already pulled our PUE down to 1.62 through the use of efficient cooling designs, modern UPSs, and power efficient servers.

So how are your dreadlocks coming along?

Check out The Green Grid’s Guidelines for Energy Efficient Data Centres

Posted by: Trey Guinn | 31 October 2007

Tags: Datacentre, Hosting, The Green Grid

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