Telehouse, The Human Element: Speaking Truth to Power
Dave Kinney, Director of Facility Planning and Operations at Telehouse, on PUE
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, data centers throughout the U.S. are projected to consume 139 billion kilowatt-hours by 2020, placing a major strain on natural resources as well as facilities’ bottom line. To avoid excessive consumption of energy, data center owners and operators utilize Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) as a key metric for the design and construction of an efficient facility. PUE gauges the ratio of energy entering the facility compared to how much power is actually consumed by IT equipment. This equation provides a window into the building’s overall efficiency and highlights areas for potential improvement.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Kinney, Telehouse’s Director of Facility Planning and Operations, to discuss the importance of PUE as a tool for implementation of energy-efficient best practices throughout the data center. During this interview, Mr. Kinney shared his experience using innovative design and advanced technologies that can increase a facility’s PUE, and how the pursuit of an ideal rating can generate significant reduction in energy expenses.
“Measuring PUE allows you to gain a more in-depth perspective of a building’s performance and opens the door for cost-savings opportunities,” explained Mr. Kinney. “It’s a simple concept: the better your PUE, the more you save on your monthly energy bill by minimizing wasted power resources.”
While owners and operators can certainly benefit from a lower PUE score, this metric is also a key consideration for colocation tenants leasing server space within a facility.
“I would say at least 98 percent of our larger customers looking to collocate within Telehouse ask us about the building’s PUE,” Mr. Kinney shared. “By improving efficiency within the server racks, tenants use less energy, which lowers their overall colocation expenses. A common way to achieve this result is the use of hot and cold aisles, which places less strain on HVAC systems.”
In addition to traditional design methods such as hot and cold aisles, smart technologies and automation are now being utilized throughout the data center to improve PUE.
“To keep our energy costs down, we use a careful combination of strategic design such as weather shield coating and drop ceilings coupled with innovative infrastructure and technologies,” added Mr. Kinney. “An excellent example can be found within Telehouse New York Teleport itself. In 2015, we replaced outdated and inefficient cooling towers resulting in a staggering eight percent savings on energy. When considering a facility as large as ours, that produces a significant impact on the bottom line.”
Shortcomings and Goings
Given that PUE does not factor in the performance of IT devices themselves, many industry experts believe it can often be a misleading metric when considering the overall energy efficiency of a facility.
“PUE is simply the IT load in comparison with the entire facility, which makes it possible to manipulate and skew overall results,” shared Mr. Kinney. “In order to achieve a true PUE estimate, analysts must factor in idle servers, office space and meet-me-rooms, which all consume power. However, while it’s not the ‘be-all and end-all’ of uncovering a data center’s true energy efficiency, it is certainly a very useful metric and one that can be incredibly helpful to identifying areas for improvement.”
“It’s also important to realize that PUE cannot be used to compare efficiency among different facilities, Mr. Kinney added. “For example, a data center built in Scottsdale, Arizona, will not have access to the same free cooling techniques available to facilities in upstate New York, thus resulting in a less desirable score.”
Regardless of its shortcomings, PUE has remained an important metric to the overall productivity of a data center, and facilities are continuously implementing new innovations to help improve their scores.
“New technologies are changing the game for data center PUE, and are now branching out beyond wind farms and solar energy in rural settings to support dense urban environments as well,” explained Mr. Kinney. “One such advance that I expect to see more in the future is DCIM. In fact, Telehouse is engaging vendors for a DCIM deployment to be rolled out in the United States.”
As green technology and energy efficient practices gain more traction throughout the data center community, PUE will continue to serve as a valuable tool in the reduction of wasted energy and operational expenditures.