01 Feb 2023

From London to Atlanta and beyond... PUE can help counterbalance rising energy costs

At the end of this week I'll be heading across to Atlanta in the United States to attend the excellent ASHRAE Winter Conference and their Technical Committee (TC) 9.9 meetings, as well as the AHR Expo (between 6-8th February). It's another fantastic opportunity to represent our growing industry, meet colleagues and peers, and share insight.

ASHRAE TC 9.9 meetings provide the chance to listen to the latest research produced by the IT Sub-Committee, who strive to optimise data centre availability and reliability while at the same time ensuring energy efficiency and sustainability. While in Atlanta, I'm really looking forward to attending the AHR Expo which is where the global data centre supply-chain launch their latest technologies and products. It's a must-attend event to share perspectives and inform product roadmaps so that ultimately we can help vendors and suppliers to help us, and all improve as a collective.

As I mentioned, energy efficiency is always a hot-topic at ASHRAE meetings and it will be no different this year. As I depart the UK westwards I'll be taking with me the knowledge that every business across the UK is feeling the pinch of rising energy costs right now. A recent survey of 200 large businesses across the UK found that 77% list energy as their number one concern across 2023. 90% of those businesses believe their energy costs will continue to rise and 80% believe it has become a board-level issue.

Remarkably, some firms have already experienced a 424% rise in gas costs and 349% increase in electricity since February 2021, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), and prices are expected to continue to increase for the foreseeable future.

Now, more than ever, businesses are looking to maximise efficiencies to keep energy costs down. Within the data centre industry, metrics like power usage effectiveness (PUE) are well-placed to help operators, and their customers, track facility power usage. PUE has its critics but as I mentioned at the Institute of Engineering and Technology last week, it's a metric I still have a lot of time for. While it wasn't created for the express purpose of managing an energy crisis, it can still be a very effective, simple measurement tool and can signpost towards considerable cost savings.

Last week I was privileged to join a superb panel of expert speakers, which included Emma Fryer, Tom Glover, Derek Webster, Mark Seymour and Mark Acton. Together we covered the critical issues facing the data centre industry and were hosted at the Institute of Engineering and Technology, in London.

Measuring energy costs with PUE

Volatility in the current energy markets creates a unique opportunity for PUE as a metric. As data centre operators and customers proportionately feel the pain of energy operating costs, those with a lower PUE will feel the impact less as they need to procure less power.

The industry typically represents PUE by considering data centre performance at the peak design or contracted kW load. This approach also aligns with the optimum operating efficiency of the power and cooling systems supporting the data centre. In theory, this can lead to exceptional PUE at 100% load. However, in practice, the load is dynamic, ranging between idle and maximum power. This has an adverse effect on the efficiencies of both the power and cooling systems which have been optimised for 100% kW load, resulting in energy-efficiency as a proportionally higher PUE at part-load.

A high performance data centre, like Kao Data, through innovative engineering can deploy hyperscale levels of efficiency from rack level to full occupancy, delivering an SLA-backed PUE of 1.2 (at KLON-01, in Harlow), including at partial loads. For a typical customer, this is a potential energy savings against legacy solutions in the order of 25% or an annual power cost savings of up-to £2.51M. As power prices rise, savings based on a lower PUE would also continue to increase. With energy prices soaring, this kind of metric becomes essential in helping customers make sound business decisions.

Download our new Whitepaper

The energy crisis is making business decisions extraordinarily complex. Any tool that is able to help guide an organisation on their power consumption has a role to play. Our latest Whitepaper, “Why PUE and efficiency remain essential to counterbalance rising energy costs”, shares how PUE can be a useful tool to simplify data centre decision-making. It will also provide you with key guidance to make PUE more efficient in your data centre environment, and will be well worth a read whether you're heading to Atlanta or not. Download it here.

Meet me in Atlanta!

If you are also heading to Atlanta and would like to meet-up to discuss relevant product launches, latest innovations in data centre technology and consider what the future product roadmap may look like through the eyes of a data centre developer and operator, please contact our Executive Assistant, Jo who will book an available slot in my Atlanta schedule (jo.oriordan@kaodata.com). I look forward to meeting you and safe travels!

Paul Finch

Paul Finch is COO at Kao Data and has had a 30-year career designing, building and operating some of the world’s finest data centres.



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