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Is Legacy Equipment Really That Costly?

May 02, 2014

According to SPECPower, data center energy use has dropped by 40% in the past five years, while overall performance has increased nearly 10 fold. This progress in energy conservation is truly encouraging, but it is still a problem for even the best data center managers to cut back energy cost of their legacy equipment.

Data center reconstructions usually come with a series of challenges, especially for those that are actively handling day-to-day business. Morris O’Riordan, VP of National Construction for Rubicon Professional Services, says that upgrading a data center is like “attempting to tune a car’s engine, while the auto is traveling down the highway at 75 miles per hour.” A legacy data center might not have enough power to fuel an updated system. New equipment work at higher efficiency, but it also generates more heat comparatively, so the cooling system also needs to be rearranged to ensure zero downtime. A host of factors need to be taken into consideration for an upgrade, which needs to be carefully planned by a whole team of experts. 

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Many IT giants have already taken a step back from installing new IT equipment. In 2010, Dell announced that it might never build another data center, and it had double its workload by “squeezing more capacity out of its existing servers.” Meanwhile, HP and Wells Fargo also adopted similar plans to optimize the use of their legacy equipment. The idea is to maximize the capacity of existing equipment before investing on new ones. As Jeff Klaus, general manager of DCM Solutions at Intel, points out, “if you can’t afford to upgrade [inefficient hardware], you can’t afford to NOT introduce energy optimizations.”

Though legacy equipment is usually not as energy-efficient as the newer ones, energy savings and legacy systems are not mutually exclusive, and data center managers should not examine the two in isolation.  

Klaus published a series of advice articles for data center managers to optimize their energy solutions on Industry Perspectives. Here are some of the key points and takeaways from this article: 

  • The manager needs to identify the biggest power consumers in the system, and correlate their energy consumption with workloads. It is important to mark the most inefficient legacy infrastructure even if upgrading them is not part of the manager’s plan

  • The underutilized servers can be put into low-power mode or powered down when they are not needed. If necessary, workload can be rearranged to prevent the servers “idling” while still consuming power

  • Rearrange the rows and racks to avoid hot spots, which are costly to cool down

  • Position airflow handlers smartly for maximum efficiency

  • Maintaining a consistent temperature is important in enhancing the reliability and lifespan of data center equipment

Temperature monitoring is particularly important in managing legacy equipment and in upgrading equipment. Increased processor speeds and higher server rack densities make it increasingly challenging for data center managers to control cooling process. Operation rooms require constant monitoring at all times and immediate alerts once the room temperature climbs up into the danger zone. Once an AC outflow shuts down unexpectedly, the temperature could increase in certain hot spots within minutes. High temperatures are one of the major causes that lead to severe malfunction or damage to data centers. Meanwhile, overcooling leads to unnecessary expenditure and energy costs.  

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Jeff Klaus. “Energy Savings for Legacy Equipment – Realistic?”.

Minicom, “IT Giants Extending the Life of Data Center Legacy Equipment”

Morris O’Riordan, “Resuscitating Legacy Data Centers: A Darwinian Approach”.

Written by:

Ivory Wu, Sharp Semantic Scribe

Traveling from Beijing to Massachusetts, Ivory recently graduated with a BA from Wellesley College in Sociology and Economics. Scholastic Ivory has also studied at NYU Stern School of Business as well as MIT. She joins Temperature@lert as the Sharp Semantic Scribe, where she creates weekly blog posts and assists with marketing team projects. When Ivory is not working on her posts and her studies, she enjoys cooking and eating sweets, traveling and couch surfing (12 countries and counting), and fencing (She was the Women's Foil Champion in Beijing at 15!). For this active blogger, Ivory's favorite temperature is 72°F because it's the perfect temperature for outdoor jogging.

Chris Monaco Temperature@lert

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