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Reduction is as important as renewables

DDR closeup

Renewables tend to lead the energy debate but reduction is an important part of the story as well.

Following our look at data centre energy consumption, it’s with great interest we note the launch of Kingston Technology’s new DDR SDRAM, DDR4. The increase in demand for additional storage and computational capacity means that data centres energy consumption is on the rise. Apart from using less, which is not likely as cloud adoption continues, improving the hardware and its power requirements may be the best option.

The increasing shift in the market towards outsourcing IT services to the cloud vendors is changing the way we house and manage our IT infrastructure and this gives us a huge opportunity to rethink data centre energy consumption and reengineer a greener, more environmentally-friendly approach to data centre provisioning.

A big part of this is the way the data centre operators source energy – and the drive towards ‘clean energy’ by some major data centre operators (e.g. Apple) is highly commendable. But sourcing energy from renewable sources isn’t the only part of the picture. Reducing demand must also play a part.

That’s why the DDR4 is interesting: Kingston claim the DDR4 will deliver improved performance, higher DIMM capacities and lower power consumption. Its higher capacity DRAM chips and stacking technologies means that DDR4 can achieve more than 2GBps per DIMM with a power consumption of 1.2v per DIMM – compared with 1.5v for the previous generation DDR3.

It doesn’t sound a lot, but this could equate to power savings at chip level of up to 40% claim Kingston. And savings at chip level has a cumulative effect: impacting power consumption in terms of voltage conversion, power distribution, UPS, cooling and switchgear and transformer, so savings are compounded.

This is important when we consider that 50% of data centre power goes on IT equipment; by far the largest consumer within the data centre. Cooling, air movement and lighting tend to get a lot of attention in terms of reducing energy consumption in the data centre, perhaps because this often tends to be where the greatest impact can be made. But they are relatively low consumers: 25%, 12% and 3% respectively, according to EYP Mission Critical Facilities figures.

Small savings at chip level can make a huge impact in the overall efficiency of the data centre – and, perhaps just as importantly from an energy management point of view, for the consumption of power at desktop and client device level too.

It’s interesting that Apple, Kingston and Infinera are trying to exploit the competitive advantage in the green credentials of their products. It would be nice to think that the industry would begin to take a lead on energy consumption reduction and green energy sourcing, but I think that from a business perspective the economics of energy consumption reduction still lead the debate. Nevertheless, as energy prices continue to rise and global instability increases the risk relating to supply, perhaps the message of energy reduction will gain further traction throughout the industry.