Mission critical facilities are essentially facilities that organisations require in order to continue with their operations. Data Centers are the most common examples, but the list can include a wide range of facilities such as broadcasting satellites, control towers, call centers etc. depending on the nature of the business operations. They support the most vital operations, of which facility failure will result in complications that range from serious disruptions in business operations, to circumstances that can even jeopardise life safety of the general public.
Hence, these mission critical facilities require very strong, resilient and disaster-tested capabilities so as to ensure that operations are not interrupted and essential workflows can proceed continuously. More often than not, these facilities are usually required to run for very long hours everyday, perhaps even 24/7 all year round. Hence, it is expected that redundant power systems and cooling systems are installed to support their operations. If these facilities have high power consumption, the supporting cooling system must be robust enough to cope with the cooling demands to ensure that the mechanical components operate effectively as usual.
Therefore, when it comes to designing and maintaining these facilities, there must be an emphasis on the efficiency and sustainability of their energy consumption so as to maintain profitability and ensure futureproofing. In this article, we will dive deep into discussing why it is important to ensure that mission critical facilities are designed to be energy efficient and sustainable for the long term, as well as provide some suggestions on how we can achieve it.. We will be using data centers as the main example of a mission critical facility, as it would be relatable to most, if not all, businesses.
Data Centers As Mission-Critical Facilities
One of the most common examples of mission-critical facilities is the data center. The data center is akin to the “brain” of the organisation, and any downtime in the data center operations may have disastrous effect on the whole business operations. That is why more and more businesses are adopting cloud computing or hybrid cloud computing solutions to outsource parts of their data center functions to these third-party service providers, so as to enable some form of redundancy for their data. However, for organisations that are still heavily dependent on their on-premise data centers, their in-house IT team will still need to be responsible for the management and maintenance of the physical infrastructure and equipment.
Data centers house the computers and servers for various purposes like holding large amounts of data, web services and applications. The data center’s design consists of a network of storage resources and computers allowing joint data and applications delivery to end users. These facilities usually have sophisticated equipment running non-stop, and thus generating a lot of heat energy. Hence, a large amount of cooling is required to protect the equipment from heat damage.
However, the solution isn’t that straightforward, because the HVAC system responsible for cooling these equipment generates a lot of heat itself as well. That is why it will also need to be energy efficient so that it is sustainable for the long run. Otherwise, if not kept in check, the cost of energy usage may amount to an astronomical figure that will render the business unprofitable. It would be a shame if a business’s failure is attributed to a lax in management of the cost of maintaining an ancillary function of itself!
Benefits Of Considering Energy Efficiency & Sustainability
With higher energy efficiency, you can achieve more with less. The goal is to accomplish the same tasks and operations while using less energy. With this consideration in mind, here are some of the benefits that may convince you to pursue efforts towards achieving high energy efficiency and sustainability for your mission critical facilities..
1. Reduced Cost Of Maintenance And Operations
The wear and tear associated with old and ageing equipment are usually accompanied with increased energy consumption over time. These can be due worn cables that have increased resistance that causes increased heat generation, lower energy efficiency and increased power consumption by the equipment. Also, with extra heat generated, more power will be required to cool these equipment down, further driving up energy consumption and cost. By ensuring that equipment is kept up to date and energy efficient, there will be better control over the cost of maintaining and operating these mission critical facilities.
2. Increased Equipment Longevity
We all know that heat is the major killer when it comes to electrical equipment. In a place such as a data center, cooling is the first priority when it comes to equipment longevity. Old and ageing equipment usually produces more heat due to wear and tear. With more heat, these electrical equipment are prone to failing more frequently. Newer equipment nowadays usually place energy efficiency as a point of consideration in it’s design as opposed to just considering its deliverable output. This can be seen even in cars nowadays, which tend to have less power but a lot more efficient engines and have a longer lifetime. Increased energy efficiency in the equipment usually also translates directly to increased equipment longevity, which can be beneficial towards controlling the cost of maintenance of the associated mission critical facilities.
3. Enjoyment Of Governmental Grants (Singapore)
There’s a wide range of available grants by the Singapore Government that help businesses pursue a greener future. The Energy Efficiency Fund (E2F) aims to support businesses in improving energy efficiency. These grants can go up to 50% of the qualifying costs and are capped at $500,000. With these grants, the costs of transitioning or starting a business that considers energy efficiency in their blueprints will definitely help to soften the blow and encourage more companies to adopt greener solutions. Most importantly, for businesses, it translates directly to money saved. As the saying goes, “a penny saved is a penny earned”. Isn’t it aptly appropriate in this case?
4. Contribution To Anti-Global Warming Efforts
Global warming has been “The Hot Topic” (pun intended) over the recent decades as the world faces ever increasing temperatures ever since the start of industrialisation more than two centuries ago. With governments around the world pledging efforts to reduce global warming, organisations have started to put more consideration in promoting these efforts. These efforts can be as small as ensuring that facilities and equipment of your own business are energy efficient and sustainable for the long run. What corporations and organisations have to understand is that adoption of energy sustainability solutions and business profitability are not directly in conflict with each other. The trick is to find alignment in both. If our mission critical facilities, which usually have the largest amount of power consumption, are energy efficient and sustainable, it should be able to have a beneficial impact on the business costs of maintenance and operations, and thus, business profitability as well!
Achieving Better Energy Efficiency & Sustainability In Mission Critical Data Centers
Every site and building system is unique. Therefore the best strategy to employ usually requires the customization of energy efficiency solutions unique to the site and building system. In this section, we list down several suggestions that you can consider and adopt to achieve better energy efficiency and sustainability in your mission critical data centers.
1. Consolidate Lightly Used Servers
An examination of every server and its consumption rates in most data centers can reveal servers that execute only light and occasional jobs. If there are servers which are not very efficiently utilised, we can consider consolidating their functions to eliminate redundant servers, thus saving money on hardware, maintenance and support. By consolidating these servers that are lightly used, the total number of operational servers are also reduced, thus saving money on electrical bills, hardware and energy consumption as well.
2. Make Use Of The Server’s Built-In Power Management Features
Most modern and newer servers come with energy-saving functions and features. More efficient power supply, better DC voltage regulators, power-efficient processors, energy-efficient cooling fans, and built-in power management capabilities are examples of such features. Power management tools can also help preserve energy, especially for apps that aren’t used frequently or don’t operate continually. Smart server processors, for example, can save power usage by automatically altering the CPU’s core speed during periods of low utilisation, or by automatically removing certain features. So if your data centers are still running on outdated servers, make sure to do a round of system upgrade as part of your data center modernization effort. If your servers already come with the energy-saving functions and features, make sure that they are enabled so that you can enjoy the energy saving benefits.
3. Reduce The Amount Of Energy Lost By Power Distribution Units (PDUs)
Consider looking for more energy-efficient PDUs as well as “smart” PDUs that track power consumption. They enable data center managers to monitor real-time power usage, data and event logs, the current pulled by each PDU, and current drawn by each outlet. Some can also even turn on and off each outlet remotely with just a click of the mouse, especially if PDUs are integrated and synchronised with Data Center Inventory Management (DCIM) systems.
4. Reduce Energy Losses From Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) Systems
UPS systems that are energy-efficient can help to reduce electrical losses. They usually include an “eco-mode.” According to this article by Schneider Electric, running UPS systems in eco-mode can save up to 2% on data center energy bills. Major UPS manufacturers generally include an “eco-mode” in their products. These modes can result in efficiency increases of a few percentage points, which sounds small, but can add up to thousands of dollars in savings and hundreds of thousands of kilograms in carbon emissions reductions.
5. Control Airflow To Improve Cooling Efficiency
Grommets, diffusers, and blanking panels are inexpensive ways to protect cool air from mixing with the hot exhaust air. In an ideal scenario, cold supply air would be routed directly to IT equipment intakes, while heated return air would be ducted straight back to the cooling unit’s intake. However, in reality, these hot and cold air may mix due to seepage of the air ducts.
Simple maintenance efforts, such as cleaning debris from the airflow channel and putting in physical mechanisms to direct and segregate hot and cold air, will be able to enhance cooling efficiency. Another way is to use blanking panels to conceal open, empty regions of server racks, so as to direct cool supply air towards the equipment, rather than into unused air space that doesn’t require any cooling.. Blanking panels will help to maintain the low temperature of the air entering the server, thus improving energy efficiency.
6. Switch To A Hot/Cold Aisle Configuration
Server racks should be arranged in rows with the fronts of the servers facing each other. Furthermore, the backs of server racks should face one another, forming hot (exhaust) and cold lanes. Server components on the board are kept within the prescribed temperature and/or humidity ranges by managing the air temperature. Containment systems can cut energy costs by 5% to 10% in data centers with hot/cold aisle configurations.
7. Enable Air Containment Data Center Curtains
Data center curtains can help prevent cold air from mingling with hot air ejected from server backs, hence lowering total cooling costs. Data center curtains will be able to provide affordable power-efficient solutions for server spaces. Air Containment in Data Centers Curtains provides highly cost-effective ways to prevent heat patches and extremely cooled spaces in your server room, which enhances equipment uptime and saves energy. The US Department of Energy (DOE) estimates a 20% – 25% reduction in fan energy use when air containment is used in conjunction with hot/cold aisle configurations.
8. In-Row And In-Rack Cooling Installation
In-Row and In-Rack systems bring cooled air in proximity to servers. Air conditioning systems can be placed in several racks or integrated with single racks to bring the delivery of cold air closer to the servers. These are called “close-coupled” cooling devices, and they are usually installed in conjunction or in place of traditional air cooling systems. In high-energy-density server racks, having these close-coupled cooling devices can reduce energy consumption as compared to just using traditional air cooling systems.
9. Use Energy Efficient Methods Of Adjusting Humidity Levels
A computer room air conditioning (CRAC) unit helps to monitor and maintain the environmental conditions, such as the temperature, humidity etc., of the data center. Each CRAC device can humidify, dehumidify, heat, and cool the air. However, these CRAC units also tend to consume a lot of electricity, especially to maintain the humidity level of the room.
A conventional CRAC device will boost humidity when it becomes too low by employing inefficient infrared or steam canister humidifiers. These humidifiers can end up consuming a lot more energy than adiabatic humidifiers (such as an ultrasonic humidifier). Furthermore, they can also end up raising the temperature of the data center because they generate heat when generating steam. Hence, it might be wise to employ energy-efficient solutions like foggers, misters, and ultrasonic units if there is a need to add humidity.
10. Installing A Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) Solution
A Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is essentially a software that enables monitoring, management and even control of the utilisation and energy consumption of all IT-related equipment in the data centers. By installing a DCIM solution, you are essentially installing sensors to measure environmental factors, such as temperatures, humidity, airflows etc. as well as energy consumption levels of various components within the data center. Some Data Center Infrastructure Management systems additionally permit for remote cooling unit monitoring and management, as well as automatic adjustment in cooling as a reaction to changing heat loads. This can not only lengthen the durability of IT resources, but it may also significantly reduce data center cooling costs.
With the rising costs of energy and the mindset shift towards a greener future, there is a growing importance of placing energy efficiency and sustainability for our equipment and facilities. This is especially so for mission-critical facilities, as most of these places are always running 24/7 and the energy consumption of these places are significant, especially in the long run. Therefore, it no longer becomes a question of if, but when, we should consider energy efficient options which are sustainable for these mission facilities. We have the potential to rewrite today’s data center energy efficiency standards.
If you would like to seek professional expertise to assist and guide you on this journey, consult our leading experts from Vallous today! We will provide you with a complimentary, non-obligatory consultation and proposal of a personalised solution based on your business needs and your existing infrastructure (if any). So what are you waiting for? Click on the button below to book your consultation with our experts TODAY!