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Measuring the Green Data Center

June 2, 2008
at 12:00 pm PST

The old management adage you cannot manage what you don’t measure was never truer than it currently is for hundreds if not thousands of IT professionals dotting the landscape trying and are currently scratching their heads trying to figure out how to make their data centers”greener.” For most of the customers I have talked to the challenge comes from the measuring side: figuring out what to measure and then putting some context around those numbers.A number or vendors have stepped in to help customers in this area with tools and calculators that offer varying levels of value (Dell and IBM are good examples). In assessing these various tools out there, I think the value of any tool ends up being proportional to the transparency it offers. Customers need to be able to truly understand how applicable information is to their specific environment. Measurements in hand, the next challenge is to establish some context for those numbers. If you are driving a load of 11kW per rack, is that good or bad? Is that even something you should care about. On this front, I think the best thing customers can do is get involved with their peers to exchange info and establish some baselines. Customers need to develop operational expertise and best practices--the best way to do that is the exchange of ideas within their peer group. Vendors like Cisco can contribute to the conversation by allowing customers to leverage our expertise and knowledge to broaden and enrich the conversation.So, on that subject, what we are doing from a Cisco perspective? On the transparency front, we have two tools: the Cisco Power Calculator and the Cisco Data Center Assurance Program (Cisco.com account required for both). Both tools give you real-world usage numbers to allow you to better assess your own circumstances.DCAP Power Measurements ViewSnapshot of the “Power Measurements” view in DCAPHere is a quick example of why transparency matters. Say you purchase a Cisco Catalyst 6500 and you send the info off to your facilities team. Based on the 6000 W power supply, they will provision a 30A electrical and about 20,000 BTU of cooling capacity. Now, the reality is the the Catalyst typically draws substantially less than that. In the DCAP model, the agg layer Catalyst 6500 draws 2273 W. While you would still need to provision the 30A circuit, you really only need about 7,800 BTU of cooling capacity. Based on this new info, you now have 12,000 BTU of cooling capacity that you don’t have to buy in the first place. Conversely, if you already have the capacity, you now have a better ideal of your ability to support growth.We also have some cool new tools and services (no pun intended) in the works to help customers increase their data center energy efficiency. I will have more info to share in the next few weeks, so stay tuned. In the interim, I encourage you to check out the Power Calculator and DCAP and let me know what other kinds of information would be useful to you.

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