Why data centre efficiency matters to you
Published 28th April 2021
Having gone through the process of migrating to a new data centre, no business can afford to discover a year down the line that their provider’s service isn’t sustainable, or is weighed down with inefficiencies. This is why it’s essential to evaluate the efficiency – both operational and environmental – of a data centre operator before taking the leap.
Stakeholders, customers and regulators alike expect every business to consider its impact on the environment, and to set robust Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) targets. Working with an inefficient provider not only impacts your ability to operate in line with your ESG values; it also increases running costs, and makes them less stable.
The two largest costs involved in a data centre are power and people, so these in turn represent a large percentage of what you pay. For the service price to remain competitive and sustainable, you need to be certain that the provider’s power and people costs are low and controlled.
Power: the impact of PUE on your TCO
While it’s great to get a good deal or initial offer when you first sign on the dotted line, power prices will fluctuate, and a lack of energy efficiency will see prices rising in the future as providers pass rising costs on to their customers.
You can get a handle on this by establishing the PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) ratio of the data centre, which describes how efficiently it uses energy. Those operating at a higher PUE will be less efficient with power, and more affected by fluctuations in energy costs within the marketplace.
PUE is calculated by determining how much power is required to cool and provide resilience for a server, per 1 unit of power used in operation. A fully optimised data centre – which would typically have advanced features such as indirect cooling, a double conversion UPS system and full generator pre-heating – will be in the 1.1 to 1.2 PUE region. The cost of power for a data centre with a PUE at this level would likely be half that of an inefficient facility. It would also be much better able to cushion the blow of a fluctuating power market.
When we built our Reading data centre we made energy efficiency and sustainability a design priority, embedding them as principles into the facility. By installing a new modular UPS (uninterruptible power supply) system in 2020 we were able to lower our PUE to 1.12, making us one of the UK’s most efficient data centres.
People: the benefits of automation
In an efficient data centre, repetitive manual tasks are carried out using automation wherever possible. This not only reduces people costs; it also improves service delivery, as teams don’t get bogged down in mundane admin, releasing their teams to focus on support and consultancy. Too many data centres still rely on people walking around a 100,000 square foot facility and writing down what the power usage is for each rack. Or, they operate their access control systems by manually programming security passes when clients come to site. These are all activities you will ultimately end up paying for as part of the service.
The use of a centralised control portal that can be accessed by both the customer and provider is a really effective and efficient way to monitor and manage data centre functions and the client’s environment. These pull together and simplify activities such as:
- logging support tickets
- control of the cooling for the data centre
- managing access for clients
- automated billing, and
- real-time reporting on power usage.
At Amito, we estimate our unique portal saves us around 30% in human resources costs, it joins together all our systems and allows us to automate routine tasks meaning we run a really lean operation. It also gives our clients visibility and control over their power usage and costs.
Your performance and growth are inextricably linked to the efficiency of your colocation provider. If this is poor, you’re exposed not only to unstable pricing models for your existing infrastructure come renewal time, but also to uncompetitive upgrade pricing during the contract period. Support response times will potentially be longer, and there will be less oversight of your service. In short, it will be harder and more expensive to get things done.
Ultimately, partnering with an efficient service provider makes it more likely you’ll receive an attentive and proactive service, a more stable cost structure and you won’t need to undertake another costly, and distracting migration in the near future to get what you need. For those businesses with clear objectives and a commitment to reducing environmental impact, its crucial to choose partners that do the same.