Tag Archives: data centres

University of Hertfordshire wins award for sustainability excellence

7 November 2011: The University of Hertfordshire has won a prestigious Green Gown Award 2011 for its pioneering data centre refurbishment project. This outstanding achievement was announced on 3 November at the national awards ceremony held at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London.

Run by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), the Green Gown Awards (GGA) recognise exceptional environmental initiatives being undertaken by universities, colleges and the learning and skills sector across the UK. With 240 applications this year, a rise of 25% from 2010, GGA are firmly established as prestigious recognition of sustainability excellence in the further and higher education sectors.

The GGA covers 13 awards categories and the University has won the coveted Green ICT category. This recognises the growing environmental importance of ICT within the sector; it encompasses a variety of actions that help minimise energy consumption, carbon emissions, waste generation and other environmental impacts associated with ICT use.

After months of scrutiny the judges said the UH entry gave “Impressive examples of best-practice features which could easily be adapted by others.” At the Awards Ceremony a delighted Steve Bowes-Phipps, UH Data Centre Manager, was presented with the impressive GGA trophy which will be proudly displayed in the College Lane Learning Resources Centre.

Steve said: “Once again, the Data Centre Refurbishment project has been recognised as a beacon of good practice both in the industry and in the HE/FE sector.” He praised his project team colleagues from across the University saying the award was fully deserved: “This has been an important 3-year development for the University which has delivered not only a world-class green data centre but also an operationally efficient one.”

Visit the Green Gown Awards website

Simplifying the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme: Next Steps

(with thanks to EAUC for providing this news item)

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) have recently published their proposals for the simplification of the Climate Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency scheme.

The scheme has been criticised by many for its complexity, and as a result, the Government committed itself to simplifying the CRC and published a number of discussion papers earlier this year. DECC has now summarised the proposals for a simplified scheme, intended to be applied from Phase 2 (2013) onwards.

The most significant proposals include:

  • Making the qualification process easier: Under the original scheme, qualification of organisations was based on two criteria: (i) the presence of one or more settled half hourly meters; and (ii) a total electricity of at least 6,000MWh measured to such meters. Under the simplified scheme, participants will just have to prove they use a certain amount of electricity from the qualifying meter. Whether this will differ, in practice, from the original rule is currently unknown.
  • Reduce the number of fuels covered by the scheme: Currently participants are required to report on their energy supplies from a list of 29 fuels. DECC now proposes to reduce this number to four: electricity, gas, kerosene, and diesel (and the latter two, where used for heating purposes).
  • Move to fix price allowance sale: The initial scheme provided for an allowance auction from Phase 2 onward. The number of allowances would have been capped following the auction, with an option to purchase additional allowances on the secondary market. Current proposals, however, would establish two sales per year, with a fix price for allowances. This removes the need for businesses to come up with auctioning strategies, although it is unsure whether there will still be room for a secondary market and how this market evolve.
  • Simplifying organisational rules: Previously, participation was based on highest parent company. This caused problems to many business structures, particularly private equity and other investment funds, as it did not reflect their natural structure or processes of these organisations. Under the simplified scheme, although qualification would be maintained at highest parent company, organisations will be permitted to participate as “natural business units”. What will be considered as a natural business unit is not defined in the proposals.
  • Removing overlaps between the CRC scheme and other schemes: Any organisations or sites covered by a Climate Change Agreement or the EU Emissions Trading Scheme will be automatically exempt of the CRC.

Despite numerous calls from stakeholders, DECC has decided against changes made to rules dictating the landlord and tenant relationship under the scheme.

Following this review, the Government now intends to publish draft legislative proposals in early 2012 for formal public consultation.

To view the full proposals, click here.

Data Centre Shared Services

The University Sector has been trying for some time now to investigate cost-effective ways of sharing ICT provision and services across institutions.  Most of these attempts have failed due to intransigence from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), who wish to impose a double-VAT burden on institutions wishing to avail themselves of these services, where no VAT burden may have been payable originally.  Consider the example of a shared service data centre between two universities:

  • Currently both universities separately and routinely incur a liability for VAT on the purchase of services, subject to a partial exemption calculation.
  • If shared services are provided by a third party in the case of a separate legal entity or one university providing the services to the other) there is a potential for an additional VAT cost to be created, since the provider (if a university) would only be able to recover input tax in line with its partial exemption method and would need to seek to charge the other university on the irrecoverable VAT as part of the recharge.
  • As this would be a taxable supply VAT would be charged on the total recharged amount, including the irrecoverable VAT.
  • If the organisation set up to deliver the shared service employed the systems administrators who have transferred across from the institution(s) no longer requiring their services in-house, then the VAT burden has gone from zero to the double-VAT described above.

Not being an Accountant, I can’t tell you what this additional levy would mount up to, but I can assure you, that on a VAT rate of 20%, this could prove uneconomic and detrimental to the business case for a shared service initiative.  Is it any wonder that no university has done this yet!

Fortunately, a ray of light has appeared in the form of the most recent White Paper issued June 2011 by the UK Coalition Government (http://bit.ly/oBPsZE).  The White Paper has recommended reviewing the VAT burden on shared services in particular and HMRC are asking for feedback on the proposal in their review published here: http://bit.ly/paBpI8

This may be the chance to influence taxation policy that we have been waiting for and then maybe the creation of a “U-Cloud” for universities will come a step closer to reality.

PUE Certification

I recently took the step of reporting our PUE figures to the Green Grid for visbility purposes.  This now means we can add the subscript codes “L2, MD” to our PUE so that others will know how we have measured and how accurately.  The following description (courtesy of the GG) explains what the mnemonics mean:

PUE Category 0

This is a demand based calculation representing the peak load during a 12-month measurement period. IT power is represented by the demand (kW) reading of the UPS system output (or sum
of outputs if more than one UPS system is installed)  as measured during peak IT equipment utilization. Total data center power is measured at the data center boundary (e.g. point of electric
feed for Mixed-Use Data Centers  or utility meters for Dedicated Data Centers) and is typically reported as demand kW. As this is a snapshot measurement, the true impact of fluctuating IT or
mechanical loads can be missed. However consistent measurement can still provide valuable data that can assist in managing energy efficiency.  PUE category 0 may only be used for allelectric data centers i.e. it cannot be used for data centers that also use other types of energy (e.g. natural gas, district chilled water, etc.).
PUE Category 1
This is a consumption based calculation. The IT load is represented by a 12-month total kWh reading of the UPS system output (or sum of outputs if more than one UPS system is installed).
This is a cumulative measurement and requires the use of kWh consumption meters at all measurement points.  The total energy  must include all fuel types that enter  the data center
boundary (electricity, natural gas, chilled water, etc).  In a Dedicated Data Center building, this will include all energy captured on utility bills; for a Mixed-Use Data Center, all the same fuels
must be sub-metered if they cross into the data center boundary.  Annual reading should reflect 12 consecutive months of energy data.  This measurement method captures the impact of
fluctuating IT and cooling loads and therefore provides a more accurate overall performance picture than PUE Category 0.
PUE Category 2
This is a consumption based calculation. The IT load is represented by a 12-month total kWh reading taken at the output of the PDU’s supporting IT loads (or sum of outputs if more than one
PDU is installed). This is a cumulative measurement and requires the use of kWh consumption meters at all measurement points. The total energy is determined in the same way as Category 1.
This measurement method provides additional accuracy of the IT load reading by removing the impact of losses associated with PDU transformers and static switches.
PUE Category 3
This is a consumption based calculation. The IT load is represented by a 12 month total kWh reading taken at the point of connection of the IT devices to the electrical system. This is a
cumulative measurement and requires the use of kWh consumption meters at all measurement points. The total energy is determined in the same way as Category 1.  This measurement method
provides the highest level of accuracy for measurement of the IT load reading by removing all impact of losses associated with electrical distribution components and non-IT related devices,
e.g., rack mounted fans, etc.
The “M”, “D” or “Y” after the Category num,ber gives the frequency with which the measurements are taken (i.e. Monthly, Daily or Yearly).

Blanking Panels

First post of the year – so I wish all my regular readers a very Happy and Prosperous one!

I have been busy in the data centre fixing blanking panels recently – we didn’t quite have enough (we do now) but I did manage to virtually completely plug the main hot aisle.  This seems to have had a great effect as my PUE has now dropped from 1.33/1.34 to 1.23/1.24 and I’m *still* running on the “Summer” setting on the CRAHs!!!  Our new support and maintenance provider has started from 4th Jan 2011, so this will be sorted out soon.  It’s nice to see though, that we are approaching our target PUE – if only for a month or so until the weather starts to warm up again.  This gives me confidence that once the data centre is in balance, we should be able to achieve the 1.22 PUE annualised.

On another (related) note: I tried to fit some in-fill panels yesterday.  These are panels that supposedly block the sides of extra-wide cabinets to prevent air escaping around the inside of them.  We have 6 of these in our main comms room.  I have to say, I spent about an hour in there trying these panels in every configuration I could conceive and I cannot see how they fit together to the racks.  They are the correct type – from the same manufacturer – so I can’t see why it’s so difficult!  I’ll have to get someone in to assist.  If you are considering purchasing these – ask for a manual!

Energy Star Label for Data Centers (Steve Phipps)

Another day, another energy standard (http://bit.ly/bECWoa) hits the streets.

It would be easy for anyone looking to manage data centres efficiently to be confused by the plethora of competing standards emanating from various bodies around the World.  This particular standard builds on your Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating, which is a measurement devised by the Green Grid and recently upgraded to bring in external verification.  The problem is, PUE is a very blunt tool for measuring efficiency and should only really be used internally to an organisation, due to it’s susceptibility to external environmental factors and subjective decisions around what to measure.

So what value will the new rating bring?  I’m tempted to say “none at all”, but as with most things, if there is a commercial or regulatory value in doing something, then there will be an almighty rush to the EPA certification queue!  I think most data centre owners would be better off accrediting against the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres (EUCoC for DCs).

The best practice techniques encouraged within the EUCoC will give an excellent starting template and provide an opportunity to lower energy, Carbon and operational costs.  Become an Endorser and/or a Participant and you might just gain some commercial benefit too.

As for the problem of proliferating standards, what we need is an holistic view of Sustainable ICT that helps to pull everything together rather than just provide arbitrary ‘kite marks’ against subjective quantitative measures…