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PUE – what does it mean for you?

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‘Do more with less’, ‘cut costs’, ‘improve efficiency’ – these phrases are probably not unfamiliar to any IT professional. The wider impact of the recession, coupled with the rising cost of fuel, has placed demand on IT departments to fall in line with the above: ship up or ship off. PUE is a measure of efficiency within a data centre, and is calculated using total facility power, and total IT power. If a data centre has a PUE of 2.0 (and most do, as this is the average), then that means that for every watt of power it takes to power the IT equipment, it takes a further watt to service the equipment with cooling, lighting etc. A PUE of 1.0 would represent total efficiency, and result in a reduced spend on power for the data centre, with this saving often transferred to the customers using its facilities. For this reason, IT professionals commanded to ‘do more with less’ and ‘cut costs’ are often very interested in a low PUE.

While most data centres are now lowering their PUE through the use of efficient equipment and improved cooling methods – free air cooling and cold aisle containment are much more energy-efficient than other commonly-used methods – the average PUE of a traditional data centre is 2.0. As a Data Centre Manager operating both a traditional data centre facility and a modernised new build, I know that this figure leaves a lot to be desired. We’ve managed to attain a PUE of 1.8 at our traditional facility and 1.25 at our new site, and we’re really proud of that. For us this translates as less energy waste and a reduction in power cost OPEX. This recovered money can is directed towards our M&E budget, and accordingly the customer experience, and for that reason our low PUEs assure customers of an excellent level of service.

If you are currently looking for a data centre, and are taking PUE into consideration, it is important that you ask any potential data centre the right questions. It is relatively easy for a data centre to manipulate the PUE they present to customers, often excluding energy used for office functions, or basing their calculation on the designed efficiency of equipment rather than the in-use figures. Ask when and how their PUE was calculated, and over what period of time, before you take it into consideration. Finally, ask about their energy procurement policy: do they also carry their corporate responsibility on energy saving through to green purchase policy?</p

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