Accurate power monitoring – Maximise uptime, reduce costs….and improve PUE?

After all the discussion of the last few years concerning PUE and how to reduce it, are we perhaps becoming a little jaded with ‘green’? For most of us, day-to-day customer service has to be our main priority. If we can maintain uptime, our clients are happy – and so are we. But lofty aspirations on energy efficiency can comfortably dovetail with uptime targets, writes Andy Mullings, data centre business development manager at Synapsys, since clear and accurate information from your power monitoring system can quite naturally contribute to an improved PUE.

 To a certain extent, it could be said that ‘green fatigue’ has now set in. We’d all like our data centre to achieve a PUE that gracefully and continuously arcs down towards that mythical 1.0 figure. But going green can cost an awful lot of money, and in the real world, most of us work for organisations that just don’t have the investment capability of a Google or a Microsoft.

As a result, many data centre managers are wearying of the ongoing pressure to reduce PUE. Aside from anything else, although PUE is intrinsically linked to the drive to go green, as a measure of a data centre’s energy efficiency it’s as open to interpretation as any other metric - as the famous saying goes, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Does it include the energy used for office functions? Is it calculated on the designed efficiencies of equipment, rather than in-use figures?

Watching the pennies

As we break free from the grip of recession, managers across the board are under pressure to cut costs, improve efficiency and do more with less. And with finite resources at their disposal in terms of time and budget, the imperative of maintaining uptime for customers often necessarily takes priority.

But the need to focus on the core function of maintaining a reliable service doesn’t necessarily mean we can relax and dismiss the need to improve building performance. With the rate of energy price rises racing ahead of inflation, the financial imperative to reduce operating costs is as strong as ever.

We all know it’s crucial for service continuity purposes to monitor what’s actually going on in the data centre. Accurate real-time power monitoring for also means that unusual usage spikes are readily apparent and can be rectified if necessary.

Billing accuracy

Of course, from a financial perspective, accurate measurement of power usage is also essential for accurate customer billing – it has a direct impact on a data centre’s profitability. As customers add more equipment, and during peak daily or seasonal processing times, it’s not uncommon for power usage to be significantly greater than originally costed for. Power monitoring reveals excessive or un-costed energy use outside normal usage patterns and allows the centre to plan for it. And if your system doesn’t offer this level of accuracy, the chances are you’re missing out on revenue.

Throwing light on a dark art

We’re all too accustomed to elements of systems management where getting the information we need feels like a bit of a dark art, and specialist expertise has to be consulted, often with associated expense. So why not put accessing that information in the hands of the people who need to use it?

The good news is that today’s power monitoring solutions are easy for non-specialists to use with only minimal training. A user-friendly ‘at-a-glance’ graphical interface that non-engineers can easily interpret is a great help, opening up performance information to energy managers, facilities managers and others who need access to real-time performance information. In particular, a power monitoring system that offers billing grade accuracy will please those responsible for customer billing – not all systems offer this level of accuracy.

One result of this improved understanding of what’s going on is that it often becomes glaringly obvious where energy savings can be made, which of course contributes to an improved PUE. For maximum benefit, look for a power monitoring system that can easily integrate with energy monitoring systems and further, with your BMS, to give complete access to and control over a wide variety of systems, including power distribution, lighting, heating and CRAC systems.

So if your facility is suffering from green fatigue and is more focused on ensuring uptime, don’t write off the possibility of improving your PUE as a ‘nice-to-have’ rather than a ‘must-have’ just yet. If you’re looking at power monitoring to optimise uptime, today’s easy-to-use solutions will open up performance information for all kinds of purposes to all kinds of people – with improved energy efficiency a happy by-product.