Google has published a detailed post of its efforts to reduce datacenter power costs by targeting the center, not the computers.
Every hardware vendor out there, from IBM (NYSE: IBM) on down is frantically looking for ways to cut power and heat in their products, but the datacenter building has not gotten as much attention. IBM has tried with its green datacenter efforts, but by and large, the building remains an overlooked issue.
Big mistake, because for every watt of power used by the computers, you will spend 0.96 watts to run the datacenter - in other words, requiring 0.96 watts of power for the facility itself for every 1 watt of power for computers. Google datacenters, on the other hand, are 21 percent of the cost. In some cases, it's as low as 15 percent.
If you only worry about computers, you're fighting half the battle, according to Erik Teetzel, energy program manager at Google (NASDAQ: GOOG). "To do proper datacenter efficiency, it helps to have a holistic picture of operations," he told InternetNews.com. "You have to take into account what you would spend on capital costs."
But people have not. Power has been cheap in many places, so companies are not incentivized to be more efficient. Companies have been more anxious to get up and running, and thought about power efficiency later. And many IT managers say they are responsible for the computers in the datacenter, but not the building, said Teetzel.
That's changing. "We're seeing a lot of people saying 'hey, you can do both and you should do both.' You should look at total cost of ownership and make energy efficiency a priority. Being very efficient with the way you operate your computer infrastructure can have significant benefits to the environment of course but also to the bottom line."
Building management is overlooked
Google's strategy encompasses five elements: efficient equipment, efficient datacenter water management, server retirement and clean energy. The first part is rather straight forward. The company used highly efficient power supplies and voltage regulator modules, the two worst offenders for power loss in a computer, said Teetzel.
The company removed components not used, like sound and discrete graphics. The result is Google servers only lose a little over 15 percent of the electricity they pull from the wall during these power conversion steps, less than half of what is lost in a typical server. Google estimates it saves $30 per server, per year with this method.