Powering your data center – The true costs start after the equipment is purchased

By Lori McConvilleBlog

Gone are the days where a company can purchase a few servers, stuff them in a closet, and crank up the air conditioning. Today’s data center is much more involved, and too valuable to just stuff in a closet at the end of the hallway.

“You can’t just buy the equipment and not worry about it anymore,” said Dan Maxcy, the Vice President of Engineered Systems for Power Protection Inc. “The true costs of having a data center start after the equipment is purchased. All of it has to be powered and cooled.”

By cooling, Maxcy is referring to the need for data center equipment to be kept within a degree or two of 74 degrees. That means cooling costs can be high for companies housing all equipment onsite.

Knowing a company’s power costs for operating an in-house data center is measured by PUE, or power usage effectiveness. PUE is a ratio of the total amount of energy used by a computer data center facility compared to the energy delivered to computing equipment. Anything that isn’t considered a computation device in a data center, such as lighting and cooling, falls into the category of energy consumption. A perfect PUE is 1.0.

“Getting your PUE close to that one-to-one ratio is a lot more difficult than one might think,” Maxcy said. “When your equipment is using one watt of energy, the cooling costs are usually double. You are essentially paying twice as much to cool the equipment as you are paying to use the equipment.”

It all comes down to efficiency, Maxcy said, and paying the high power costs to cool equipment a company may not even be using can hurt the bottom line.

“An expert company like Enseva works to bring these inefficiencies down, which means bringing down power costs,” Maxcy said. “Having an off-site data center puts the responsibility on an Enseva-like company. They monitor power costs, they also understand when a company needs new equipment, and how fast to grow.”

Maxcy said the equipment purchased for a company’s in-house data center also plays a role in increased power costs and decreased efficiency.

“There is no room for the company to grow if they buy the bare minimum, so many times they will over purchase” Maxcy said. “They don’t know what they will need this week, next month or next year, which means they guess.”

Chris Sevey, CTO and founder of Enseva, said one of the biggest challenges in a company’s decision to move a data center off-site is an IT manager’s concerns about loss of control and security.

“While the company CEO will worry about everything from power costs to efficiency, the IT manager really focuses on technology and capabilities,” Sevey said. “It all comes down to the skill set Enseva provides. As data-center experts, we work to make the right choices for each company. A competent data-center manager is aware of where power costs are the lowest, what we need for a good facility and what a company needs to stay efficient, and evolve with technology and equipment.”

Location also plays a special role in cutting cost for an off-site data center. Using Iowa as an example, Maxcy said six months out of the year temperatures are below 54 degrees, which means six months of low cooling costs. Iowa also doesn’t have any danger of earthquake or major weather tragedy. One concern is tornadoes, but Maxcy stressed Enseva already has that issue covered with the ability to build low cost, toranado-proof facilities.