The amount of data in the world is piling up, making data centers a necessity. Even companies and organizations that may not be the traditional candidates for data centers are turning to them for data storage and management needs.

The downside of having a data center is the associated costs. The cost of the space is dictated by the real estate market, but high energy consumption is something that many are starting to re-evaluate, especially as more energy-efficient options become mainstream.

Aging centers

Most data centers are reaching the point that their initial equipment, though still being used on a daily basis, is not as energy efficient as it could be. Coupled with increasing energy costs, this creates an overhead nightmare of sorts that seems to be centered around heating, cooling and power issues.

The main culprits are servers. In the data storage world, servers are the backbone of the system. The problem is, not only do most servers that are currently being used require a lot of power to operate, they run hot and require cooling systems to keep things operational.

Therefore, as the energy consumption for both power and cooling requirements continues to increase, as well as the energy rates charged by the utilities, data center owners and operators are facing budget crunches that most did not anticipate when originally shifting over to a data center backbone.

Efficient hardware

Most manufacturers involved in data center offerings have jumped aboard the green train and offer some type of energy-efficient solutions. Most target companies have reached the point that ripping out and replacing data center components is a viable option due to aging equipment and rising overhead costs. Replacing components as budgets allow also is becoming quite popular as an alternative.

Blade servers, for example, are far faster than their counterparts and take up less space, which is one of the big cost factors in a data center. Conversely, they run hot, and increased cooling costs are associated with them.

At times, the task of making a data center more efficient seems daunting, as the intricacies of the required equipment can be somewhat contradictory. However, storage specialists have been making themselves more vocal and visual. The good thing for electrical contractors is that those integrators generally do not specialize in what ECs do best: system installation and maintenance.

Virtual operations

One of the newest technologies to help address the data center power issue is the use of virtualization. In particular, server virtualization—which is the process that allows multiple servers to be rolled into one virtual server through software—is becoming increasingly accepted as a way to save on energy costs and space. Storage virtualization also is a viable option.

Many data centers are opting to use both server and storage virtualization these days, and even those leery of the new technology are incorporating some aspects of virtualization in their storage environments.

Upon first glance, virtualizing may stand out as a loss of business for contractors, as fewer server installations equate to fewer cable runs. However, those who understand the data center environment will quickly realize ample opportunity for contracting work still exists.

Maintaining what one currently has and being willing to replace aging equipment with more efficient models seems to be the best plan within the information technology world. Data centers are prime targets in the realm of going green. EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.