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Preparing to pay for data centre energy usage

Last week Dolf Krige of the Facilities Management Division presented their plan for monitoring, measuring and managing energy use on campus to the Sustainable IT Competency Centre group. Essentially the first phase implementation comes down to installing 87 intelligent energy meters during 2010 – with the goal of devolving the cost of electrical energy usage, which is currently centrally funded, to departments and divisions. Devolution of electricity costs will concentrate minds and promote energy efficiency because the financial savings will accrue to the user entity.

The first phase will probably be followed by a further 75 meters in university residences. All the meters will communicate with a central management system so that real-time measurements, energy targets and comparisons are made available for display in student and staff portals and on digital displays in buildings.

The significance of the devolution of energy costs for the IT Division is rather obvious: currently the university’s data centre is located in the IT building and consumes more than 1.1 GWh per annum at an approximate energy cost of R750 000 pa. Devolution of these costs to the IT Division makes energy efficiency investments in data centre refurbishment and operations essential, especially given the approval of 25% pa Eskom electricity tariff increases over each of the next three years. By 2012 – with no growth and no interventions – the data centre’s annual energy costs will almost double to R1.46 million!

We have previously published preliminary PUE measurements for the data centre that indicate that PUE is consistently above 2 and exceeds 2.5 during daylight hours on hot days. This suggests that there are a number of interventions related to cooling and ventilation that will reduce energy consumption. Also, the constant energy usage of servers irrespective of workload or time-of-day suggests that power management of servers would offer significant energy savings.

We have consequently committed a modest amount for investment in some efficiency interventions during 2010, but clearly the ROI could be substantial and rapid for larger investments.

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