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5 Ways to Improve Data Center Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE)

The push for greener and more efficient data centers is well underway. As a result, improving data center power usage effectiveness (PUE) is more important than ever. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but there are a few simple and successful methods that may help improve data center power usage effectiveness. Let’s dive into five PUE enhancements for data centers. 

A Recap of PUE

Power usage effectiveness measures how energy-efficient a data center or IT facility is. It is a holistic evaluation of a data center’s energy consumption, including IT equipment and auxiliary systems, such as lights, cooling equipment, and more. 

PUE is the ratio of the total amount of energy used by a data center compared to the energy delivered to computing equipment. The goal is to get the PUE ratio as close to one as possible. A PUE of one means that all energy is going toward computing processes, and none of it is being wasted on auxiliary purposes. 

For many, a PUE ratio of one may be unrealistic, but improvement may still be possible.

How to Measure Power Usage Effectiveness 

The standard method for measuring PUE is:

Gather Total Energy Usage

Calculate the data center’s total energy usage. This calculation should include every single metric, from the lights in the office to the air conditioning humming in the background. Even the coffee maker in the break room should be included. 

Measure IT Equipment Energy

Determine how much energy IT equipment is using. This is the energy consumed by servers, storage, and networking gear—in other words, the heart and soul of a data center. 

Crunch the Numbers

Calculate PUE by dividing the total energy usage by the IT equipment energy. If the total energy usage is 1,000 kWh and IT equipment uses 600 kWh, the PUE is 1,000/600, which equals approximately 1.67. In this scenario, a data center would be spending $0.67 on non-IT energy for every $1 spent powering its IT equipment. 

Interpret the Results 

Once the PUE number is calculated, interpret the results. A PUE of 1.0 is the ultimate goal. That score means that all energy being used is going straight to IT equipment. Numbers above 1.0 indicate room for improvement. The higher the ratio, the more energy the center is using on non-IT equipment. 

Review and Improve

Optimizing PUE is a continuous journey that requires a diligent and strategic approach. Even small changes can move the PUE ratio in a positive direction. Continuous monitoring and optimizing PUE will help move toward an optimal energy efficiency rate. 

5 Tips to Improve Data Center Power Usage Effectiveness

Here are five practical ways to improve data center power usage effectiveness:

1. Embrace Hot/Cold Aisle Containment

Improve PUE by managing airflow efficiently. Implement hot and cold aisle containment to help significantly reduce hot and cold air from mixing. This results in more effective cooling and less energy consumption. 

Restructuring containment processes to improve cooling is a large and expensive undertaking, but it can be done incrementally, with each improvement resulting in better PUE. 

2. Optimize Cooling Systems

Optimizing cooling systems is crucial. Advanced cooling strategies such as liquid cooling, in-row cooling, or economizers leverage outside air. These methods are able to significantly reduce the amount of energy needed to keep servers at the optimal temperature.

Cooling costs represent the largest non-IT expenses for data centers. According to Facility Executive Magazine, cooling costs account for $0.67 of every $1 spent on data center power load. 

3. Lift the Equipment

Lifting equipment off the floor and exposing it to better airflow is another way to improve PUE. When equipment is exposed to additional air, it will cool down faster. As a result, the facility’s cooling systems won’t have to work as hard to keep everything within the ideal temperature threshold.

Updating equipment can also help improve PUE. Older equipment is often less efficient and can negatively affect a PUE ratio. Regularly updating and upgrading servers, storage, and network devices contributes to better energy efficiency. 

4. Implement Smart Power Distribution Units (PDUs)

Smart PDUs provide better monitoring and control of power usage at the rack level.

With smart PDUs, data centers have total visibility of rack-level power usage and have the ability to eliminate waste. Some smart PDUs include features such as remote power cycling, which can help with advanced troubleshooting. Smart PDUs provide more control over power resource allocation, making PUE optimization goals more attainable. 

5. Educate and Engage Team Members

Improving PUE is not a one-person job. Instead, it requires a collaborative team effort. Educating staff about the importance of energy efficiency is a great way of getting everyone on board. 

When the whole team is involved, the PUE problem can be viewed holistically. People from other departments may be able to provide unique perspectives and draw attention to previously overlooked cost-saving opportunities. 

The Importance of PUE Enhancements for Data Centers

Implementing these strategies can result in meaningful cost savings and position data centers as leaders in energy efficiency. 

The path to better PUE is a marathon, not a sprint. Meaningful improvements to power usage effectiveness come from implementing even relatively small changes. Cumulatively, these improvements will help data centers reduce waste, boost PUE, and achieve efficiency goals.

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