Six Must-Haves to Improve Data Center Efficiency

Posted by Troy Snobecy on Mar 8th 2022

Six Must-Haves to Improve Data Center Efficiency

With emerging 5G and IoT/IIoT technologies and ever-increasing demand for more bandwidth, data centers are housing more power-hungry equipment than ever before. And that means more energy consumption and higher cost. At the same time, increasing regulations on energy use and the need for industries to reduce emissions are requiring data centers to become more efficient than ever. That’s why the use of onsite renewable energy sources and strategies like energy use monitoring are on the rise. In fact, data center professionals predict that nearly 20% of data center power could come from solar and wind within the next three to five years—driven primarily by large hyperscale data centers.

While many enterprise data centers don’t have the means to deploy onsite renewables, they still need to reduce energy consumption without compromising productivity and digital transformation. Data centers often use Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) as an indicator of efficiency, which calculates the ratio of all the energy used by the data center to the energy used by the active equipment alone. The good news is that with advancements in data center topology, today’s active equipment, and the right infrastructure components, any data center can improve efficiency.

Let’s take a look at the top six must-haves.

Spine and Leaf Architecture

Spine and leaf architecture where every leaf switch connects to every spine switch for an east-west traffic pattern has gained momentum over traditional three-tier switch architecture with a north-south traffic pattern. While the primary advantage of a spine-leaf approach is to reduce switch hops for better support of low-latency applications, it also improves efficiency. With every leaf switch connected to every spine leaf, communication between servers does not require data to flow all the way to core switches.

Spine and leaf switches are also fixed-configuration switches that offer lower power consumption and are available with energy efficient Ethernet that further reduces power consumption during periods of low network traffic. These fixed-configuration switches are also available in smart and managed switches that offer detailed control and management over the network, including the ability to shut down inactive ports to save energy.

High-Density Servers and Consolidation

High-density servers offer improved compute density in less rack space, reducing the amount of data center floor space that needs to be cooled and thereby reducing energy and improving efficiency. In general, today’s servers are far more energy efficient and the trend of server consolidation that combines and/or replace multiple legacy servers with virtual systems also saves space and decreases the number of servers to further reduce cooling and electrical costs.

Intelligent Power Distribution

When it comes to powering active network equipment like servers and switches, filtered and protected power is typically provided by uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and distributed via cabinet-level power distribution units (PDUs). Choosing intelligent UPS and PDUs that allow data center managers to monitor and manage power can go a long way in improving efficiency. In addition to managing and monitoring capabilities, one UPS feature to look for is  bypass capability that allows current to bypass the USP transformer and voltage regulation when utility power is normal, thus reducing energy consumption, heat generation, and operating cost.

A picture containing electronics  Description automatically generatedWhen it comes to selecting PDUs, both metered PDUs and monitored PDUs allow for monitoring power load levels, either at the PDU or outlet level. This is especially useful for managing overall power consumption and improving capacity planning in the data center. Data center managers can gain additional efficiencies by taking it one step further with switched PDUs that also allow for controlling individual outlets. This allows unused PDU outlets to be electronically shut down to shift power loads and reduce stranded power (i.e., unused power distributed to a cabinet), improving PUE.

Advanced Cooling and Airflow Management

Computer room air conditioner (CRAC) units have advanced to become far more efficient, including economizers that use outdoor air and/or water for evaporative cooling that can energy consumption by 60% compared to standard CRAC unit. Using a hot aisle/cold aisle configuration significantly increases the savings, and the Department of Energy estimates that combining a hot/aisle/cold aisle layout with containment can reduce equipment fan energy use by 20 to 25%. This included full aisle containment systems or the use of single cabinet chimneys that direct hot air into the return plenum space.

When it comes to improving efficiency, data center managers need to ensure that they aren’t overlooking easy, inexpensive ways to keep cold air from mixing with hot exhaust air. Simple airflow management solutions like blanking panels that close off unused rack spaces are something every data center manager should consider.

Cabinets and Cable Management

While cabinets and cable management help protect and manage equipment and cables, they are also vital ensuring efficiency. Rather than using open racks that can hinder separating hot and cold air, cabinets available with vented or solid doors are better suited for raised-floor environments and hot aisle/cold aisle configurations, including for use with aforementioned energy-efficient aisle containment systems. Cabinets accessories like standalone fans and vented rack shelves can also help improve efficiency.

Cable management solutions that are vital for routing, organizing, and protecting cables within racks and cabinets also help eliminate airflow blockage for better efficiency. When cabling is not properly organized or managed, the result is cable congestion that can impeded airflow, create hot spots, and cause fans and cooling solutions to work overtime.

Cabling and Connectivity

While cabling and connectivity is often overlooked as a contributor to efficiency in the data center, slim jacket patch cables that use a 28 AWG construction and offer smaller overall diameter help improve airflow in and around active equipment in high-density applications, while also improving accessibility.

High-density connectivity solutions like our HD8² high-density fiber optic patching system also go a long way in saving space in the data center and supporting high-density server environments to further improve efficiency. HD8² square cassettes provide a space savings of up to 100% over traditional flat, wide cassettes.

While many enterprise data centers might not have Facebook’s ability to move to 100% renewable energy or match Google’s plan to be carbon-free by 2030, there are several practices and solutions that smaller data centers can adopt to significantly improve efficiency—from switch and server consolidation, to advanced power management, less energy intensive cooling strategies, and the right infrastructure solutions.

The good news is that CablesPlus offers a complete line of both active and passive data center solutions that can help any data center reduce power consumption and run more efficiently. Click HERE to view our breadth of solutions or contact us at or 866-678-5852 to discuss your efficiency needs.

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