IT managers say more effective power and cooling management lets them increase uptime and reduce utility costs.

May 13 2014
Data Center

School District Saves $1M with Efficient Power and Cooling

IT managers say more effective power and cooling management lets them increase uptime and reduce utility costs.

The Camas School District in Washington took a clever approach to power and cooling management.

Recognizing that funding was limited, Technology Director Sherman Davis says the district opted for a combination of server virtualization and more effective management of uninterruptible power supplies and air conditioning to reduce energy costs. The combination saved about $1 million, Davis says, which freed up money for 2,000 mobile devices and educational applications.

Camas School District consolidated 77 physical servers into four server units. By reducing the district’s server footprint, they take up less space in the data center.

“Now, we can let our three air conditioners take turns during the day,” Davis says. “We used to have two going all the time to keep up with the heat.”

The district also integrated its APC Symmetra UPSs with the network, says Davis.

“With the UPS integration combined with the network monitoring tool we use, the system alerts us if the temperature goes up or down,” he says. “It also monitors the switches and servers, so we receive alerts before any of the equipment goes down.”

David Cappuccio, a managing vice president for Gartner and chief of research for the infrastructure teams, says more school districts are taking a closer look at power and cooling.

“The idea is to bring the solution to the problem,” he says. “Why cool the entire room when you can focus on cooling the equipment where the heat is coming from? We’ve seen organizations reduce their power and cooling costs by as much as 30 percent.”

Powerful Redundancy

Steve Bratt, manager of technology operations for Vancouver Public Schools in Washington, says the district built a second data center about 18 months ago when it outgrew its main facility. The IT staff supports about 25,000 users overall, roughly 22,000 of them students.

85%The percentage of data center managers who say their organization experienced a loss of primary utility power in the past 24 months.

SOURCE: “2013 Study on Data Center Outages” (Ponemon Institute, Sept. 2013)

Bratt calls the new space a “load-balanced” data center that serves as a redundant facility. “With virtualized services, we can share the processing between the two data centers, but still manage the spaces separately if we need to do maintenance or have an outage affecting one room,” he says.

The new data center has a Liebert air-conditioning unit from Emerson Network Power that features free cooling, says Bratt. This means that the new AC unit can take in cool air from the outside, saving energy in the process. Bratt says the compressors in the new data center run at about 30 percent capacity, while those in the old data center run at nearly 75 percent.

Bratt decided against deploying in-row cooling, preferring a hot aisle/cold aisle setup to feed cold air to the front of the racks and remove heat from the back. The district also deployed APC Symmetra uninterruptible power supplies.

Three Tips for Upgrading a Data Center

Most data centers must be upgraded while work continues. Gartner’s David Cappuccio offers three tips for retrofitting an existing data center.

  • Break floor space into discrete sections. Clear out a small section of floor space — roughly four racks of space — for an in-row cooling unit. It could be as small as 60 to 120 square feet and reside on an existing section of raised floor or on a slab.
    Depending on the vendor selected, the self-contained rack unit will require power from an existing power distribution unit, or in some cases, a refrigerant or cooling distribution unit. Assume an increase in per-rack space of about 20 percent to take into account additional supporting equipment.
  • Reconfigure and defragment the floor. It’s unlikely that the workloads moved to the new enclosure will all come from the same racks, which means that the older section of the room will now be heavily fragmented. Move workloads out of underutilized racks to free up additional floor space for the next self-contained installation.
    This reconfiguration will take time and affect servers, storage and networking components and connections. Much of the activity will need to happen in off-hours or on weekends, so it’s critical to integrate this work into the organization’s change control processes.
  • Reconfigure again. By implementing a phased retrofit, data center managers can attain significant growth within the facility while reducing power and cooling requirements.
    Implementing more efficient cooling can boost equipment density and PDU utilization at the rack level. A more efficient cooling delivery system also requires less overall power to support a given IT load, freeing up additional power for future growth.

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