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Chris West

Is data the key to reducing power & meeting sustainability goals?

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By Chris West (pictured), Head of Managed Service, Keysource

A growing number of customers are committing to sustainability/Net Zero targets and asking us to help them understand the journey to achieving their IT and data centre related goals. 

Know what you’ve got

Our starting point is simple – organisations need to get visibility of the utilisation of their compute in order to then optimise it.  The deployment of DCIM (Data Centre Infrastructure Management) is the critical first step to see the compute, storage and networking, where it is and crucially what the hardware is.

Recent enhancements in software technology now allow us to interrogate IT (through management interfaces and industry standard monitoring protocols such is IPMI) to understand the actual utilisation of IT and this can present a number of opportunities for optimisation which can lead to a more sustainable solution. This could for example show that current servers are under utilised and that these could be consolidated, or that a technology refresh is needed to replace equipment with new more efficient hardware. Our findings show that on average, compute is only about 16% utilised and we are regularly able to make this as high as 60% once we have the data.


If we can start to get visibility of utilisation, we can start to drive accountability for it. With optimisation statistics on individual servers, we can start to make platform managers and business segments accountable for their compute. Couple this with information on the power draw and we can start to monetise the cost of the inefficiencies.

The next stage is to leverage this information to keep driving efficiency. Currently, it is recognised as good practice to ensure that our data centres are scalable and have good levels of resilience so they are often designed for “day 2 load”  – meaning we can accommodate the ever expanding IT should we need to.

Get dynamic

“Day 1 loads” are invariably much lower than the capacity of the infrastructure, often resulting in a “low load” operation. Low load often means that we run with a greater level of resilience than we need (N+3 instead of design N+1), so we have more M&E powered than we really need. Another function of low load is that M&E systems are often not as efficient as designed and for example might be overcooling with low return air temperatures and reduced free cooling.

The technologies used to understand IT utilisation (including intelligent BMS) can also provide us with power draw information, giving us a clear picture of our IT load. If we leverage this then we can write dynamic programs to match our operating M&E to the requirements of the IT load – shutting down M&E we don’t need.

Predictive algorithms

We can also use these technologies to react quickly to failures in M&E including predictive algorithms to identify when systems are likely to fail and also to preempt operations.

These predictive technologies can in turn also contribute to sustainability goals. We can leverage technology to understand M&E equipment run hours and adapt our planned maintenance programs to service equipment when it is needed, not simply based on a calendar year. Consider your scope 3 emissions (which include your supply chain) and the savings that could be made against unnecessary travel and the replacement of consumables you don’t yet need.

The Future

Data can play a vital role in helping us to make informed choices by collecting and leveraging data and enabling the technology to drive value and reduce power usage and carbon. However, the software won’t do this alone as it needs to be part of a broader consistent approach.