Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Blueprint: Six Steps toward Data Center Energy Efficiency

by James A. Stark, P.E., Senior Director of Engineering, Electronic Environments Co.

As Patrick Gammons, Senior Manager of Data Center Energy and Location Strategy at Google, observed in a recent blog post concerning data center energy efficiency, “The cleanest energy is the energy you don’t use.”

Gammons’ remark coincided with the announcement that Google would be converting a coal power plant in Jackson County, Alabama, scheduled for shutdown in October, to become its fourteenth data center. The Alabama data center, expected to begin construction early next year, will incorporate state-of-the-art energy efficiency technologies, including super-efficient servers and advanced cooling technologies “to squeeze more out of every watt of power” it consumes.

Today, start-up organizations to Fortune 500 global enterprises utilize mission-critical facilities to house their vital data, and with data center energy consumption nearly 100 times higher than that of a typical commercial building, data center owners and operators are placing a greater focus than ever before on improving energy efficiency. With the August 3 announcement of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, the country’s first-ever national standard to limit carbon pollution from power plants,  it’s highly probable that similar regulatory action to reduce energy consumption in data centers will eventually become policy.

With the writing on the proverbial wall, it’s incumbent upon our industry to develop the most energy-efficient data centers possible, ensuring maximum uptime and minimal costs, while reducing their carbon footprint. With these exigencies in mind, here are six critical steps data center owners and operators can take to achieve optimal energy efficiency.


Data center assessment professionals are equipped to provide thorough, in-depth analyses, providing recommendations for cost effective solutions to correct infrastructure deficiencies and improve maintenance programs. A detailed assessment of your data center’s operational performance will outline the individual areas in which your energy efficiency practices may fall short. Airflow management practices, identification of hot spots, and overall temperature regulation are all critical items to assess in order to develop a strategic plan to lower energy costs. A data center assessment professional can also provide insider information to prepare for external audits and contextual data for developing strategies.

Preventive Maintenance

The Ponemon Institute reports that data center downtime costs owner-operators an average of $7,900 per minute. Downtime is the number one issue that not only adversely affects your bottom line, but your company’s reputation as a reliable organization. To ensure maximum uptime, a comprehensive preventive maintenance program should include, but is not limited to, battery testing and maintenance, load bank testing, generator coolant, fuel and oil sampling, and periodic testing of overcurrent protective devices.

Equipment Upgrades

Equipment upgrades are necessary to make data centers more efficient and to maintain a robust and reliable facility. Fortunately, new technologies are continually developed that reduce overall energy consumption, such as Economy Mode (eco-mode) Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), 380V DC power systems, lighting system retrofits, dynamic cooling systems and efficient chillers.

Eco-mode is the term used to describe UPS systems that run in bypass mode during normal operation, and switch to on-line mode on the inverter when the incoming power deviates from acceptable limits for the IT equipment. This is the inverse of a traditional on-line reverse transfer UPS system where the IT load is normally supported by the inverter. Because in eco-mode the UPS is effectively offline, system efficiencies of 98-99% can be achieved and energy savings can be significant. By knowing what innovative technologies are available and understanding the ROI of many of these upgrades, you may be able to use them to your advantage within your data center design.

Airflow Management

Flawed airflow management wastes large amounts of energy and is an immediate financial drain. By adjusting rack layouts, improving supply air delivery, and reducing air recirculation, data center operators can realize substantial savings. Improved airflow management is a simple, low-cost path to improved Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE).

Dynamic Cooling Management

Cooling system operation plays a critical role in the energy efficiency of a data center; and since no two data centers are alike, cooling solutions often need to be customized accordingly. Dynamic cooling systems are easy to deploy and can produce immediate energy savings. Rather than controlling temperature and airflow based on overall ambient room conditions, CRAC fan speeds are adjusted based on real-time readings collected through rack temperature sensors and control modules. Redundant CRAC units can be set in standby mode, ready to turn on if conditions in the room change or a primary CRAC unit fails.

Baseline Energy Reduction

Sustainable energy sources, including fuel cell, solar and wind power are increasingly becoming more commonplace within data centers to reduce their overall carbon footprint and save money on electricity consumption. Baseline reductions can also offer facilities free cooling and renewable energy, translating into immediate savings. To return to the example of Google, after repurposing a 60-year-old paper mill to a data center in Hamina, Finland, the American multinational technology company reused the cooling infrastructure that drew water from the Bay of Finland to cool data center equipment.

While not every data center owner-operator will have immediate access to such unconventional energy-efficiency methodologies, deployed in concert, the above steps will reap short- and long-term energy reduction, improve reliability, ensure overall performance and reduce expenditures.

About the Author 

James A. Stark has been with the Electronic Environments Co. for over twenty years, providing engineering and construction project management in the Mission Critical Facilities Services Group. He has extensive experience in delivering mission critical data center projects, site assessments and power quality studies. Jim has a degree in electrical engineering from Northeastern University and is a registered professional electrical engineer.

Ericsson: 5G to Reach 150 Million by 2021

Ericsson is forecasting 150 million 5G mobile subscriptions by 2021. A newly released Ericsson Mobility Report predicts that South Korea, Japan, China and the US will lead the 5G subscription uptake.

The report, a comprehensive update on mobile trends, reveals a significant increase in mobile video consumption, which is driving around six times higher traffic volumes per smartphone in North America and Europe (2015 to 2021). North America data traffic per active smartphone will grow from 3.8 to 22 GB per month by 2021; in Western Europe, the increase is from 2 to 18 GB per month.

With 20 new mobile broadband subscriptions activated every second, global increase in mobile subscriptions is another clear driver for data traffic growth. As of now, there are the same amount of mobile subscriptions as there are people on the planet; in 2016 we will reach the four billion mark for smartphone subscriptions alone.

Rima Qureshi, Senior Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer, Ericsson, says: "5G is about more than faster mobile services - it will enable new use cases related to the Internet of Things. For example, Ericsson has built a prototype testbed for applying 5G networking functions and data analytics to public transport, which can save resources, reduce congestion, and lower environmental impact. ICT transformation will become even more common across industries as 5G moves from vision to reality in the coming years."

Some highlights:

  • A significant increase in mobile video consumption will drive around six times higher traffic volumes per smartphone in North America and Europe by 2021
  • Mainland China becomes largest LTE market in the world with nearly 35 percent of all LTE subscriptions. By the end of 2015, Mainland China will have 350 million LTE subscriptions - nearly 35 percent of the world's total LTE subscriptions. The market is predicted to have 1.2 billion LTE subscriptions by 2021.
  • Video dominates data traffic: Global mobile data traffic is forecast to grow ten-fold by 2021, and video is forecast to account for 70 percent of total mobile traffic in the same year. In many networks today, YouTube accounts for up to 70 percent of all video traffic, while Netflix's share of video traffic can reach as high as 20 percent in markets where it is available.
  • Africa becomes an increasingly connected continent: Five years ago (2010) there were 500 million mobile subscriptions across Africa; by the end of 2015 this number will double to 1 billion. Increased connectivity improves the prospect of financial inclusion for the 70 percent unbanked through mobile money services starting to take form across Africa.
  • ICT will enable savings in energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across all other industrial sectors. The total emission reduction could be up to 10 gigatonnes of CO2e, representing about 15 percent of global GHG emissions in 2030 - more than the current carbon footprint of the US and EU combined.

The full Ericsson Mobility Report, Traffic Exploration Tool, Mobile Business Trends appendix and regional reports for Europe, South East Asia & Oceania (launched November 24th), North East Asia (launched early December), North America, Middle East & North East Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa can be downloaded.

First LTE Carrier Aggregation (CA) in Licensed and Unlicensed Bands

Ericsson, Vodafone and Qualcomm have conducted the first live testing of advanced LTE Carrier Aggregation (CA) of LTE in licensed and unlicensed bands on a commercial mobile network.

The Vodafone LTE trials with unlicensed spectrum are being conducted over Vodafone's network in the Netherlands.  The latest over the air results were achieved by aggregating 20 MHz of Vodafone spectrum in Band 3 (1800 MHz) with 20 MHz of the unlicensed 5 GHz band U-NII-1 band.  The testing validated LTE performance in the unlicensed band and fair co-existence with other technologies like Wi-Fi within the unlicensed 5 GHz band.  The Ericsson RBS 6402 Indoor Picocell includes a 5GHz LTE enabled radio in addition to multiple LTE radio variants and optional 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi module - all in a sleek, compact package with a tablet-sized footprint.  The user equipment utilized in this trial is a test device powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon X12 LTE modem. The Snapdragon X12 LTE modem is a product of Qualcomm Technologies.

Matthias Sauder, chief network officer, Vodafone Netherlands:  "Our intent in deploying small cells is always to deliver the best customer experience, and we see the potential for LTE aggregation with unlicensed bands on small cells as one way to make that customer experience even better.  We are already using Ericsson's RBS 6402 indoor picocell in our own shops in the Netherlands, so it's great to see that it will also support advanced LTE CA capabilities with unlicensed spectrum on our network."

Valter D'Avino, Head of Ericsson's Region Western and Central Europe, says: "Vodafone has taken a leadership position in small cells and our LTE trials on unlicensed spectrum with them, together with Qualcomm Technologies, really underscore their continued commitment to improving the performance of indoor networks to ensure better app coverage for their customers.  The unlicensed 5 GHz band is a shared resource and, as we have seen, it can be aggregated with LTE bands to provide a speed boost for users to improve app coverage, when spectrum is available - of course, the user also maintains their connection to Vodafone's highly reliable LTE network, so they have a great connection no matter what."

Ericsson Achieves 450 Mbps with LTE-U

Ericsson now has License Assisted Access (LAA), sometimes referred to as LTE-U, running live its labs.  The tests support the aggregation of licensed and unlicensed spectrum for peak rates up to 450 Mbps and enabling fair sharing of spectrum between mobile and Wi-Fi devices. The lab trials of both LAA fair sharing and licensed-unlicensed aggregation - 20 MHz on licensed band and 40 MHz on unlicensed 5 GHz band - were demonstrated from the Ericsson radio development units in Ottawa, Canada and Stockholm, Sweden.

LAA, or LTE-U, extends the benefits of LTE to unlicensed spectrum, providing reliable and predictable performance. The licensed band provides an anchor to ensure a seamless user experience with full mobility while the unlicensed band provides incremental capacity and enables faster data speeds.

The technology milestone has been achieved in cooperation with Qualcomm Technologies.  The companies also confirmed that Verizon, SK Telecom and T-Mobile US are already investigating the performance benefits that LAA can offer to mobile customers on their networks.

Starting in the fourth quarter 2015, Ericsson is adding LAA to its indoor small cell portfolio, including the Ericsson RBS 6402 Indoor Picocell (targeted at smaller buildings under 50,000 square feet) followed by the Ericsson Radio Dot System (for medium and large buildings).

Broadcom’s New StrataXGS Drives 2.5G Ethernet for 802.11ac APs

Broadcom announced new enterprise Ethernet switches designed to deliver the faster data rates offered by 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi.

The two new chips, which are built on Broadcom’s StrataXGS architecture, support 2.5G Ethernet to the access point, thereby unlocking the faster wireless speeds and enabling the higher bandwidth demands without needing to re-cable an entire network.

One of the chips integrates more high speed 10 gigabit interfaces for fiber uplinks and delivers double the stacking bandwidth of previous generation devices. A second desing enables a smaller form factor with low power consumption, providing multi-mode 1GbE/2.5GbE Ethernet interfaces with 10 Gigabit uplinks. Both are currently sampling.
“Broadcom continues to partner with worldwide equipment manufacturers to deliver the most comprehensive
portfolio for Enterprise Networking.” said Nick Kucharewski, Broadcom Vice President, Network Switch Marketing. “Our new switch products enable a converged wired/wireless enterprise and deliver highly optimized 2.5GE solutions for high density wireless deployments.”

Secret Double Octopus Unveils its Network Security Solution

Secret Double Octopus, a start-up based in Israel, emerged from stealth mode with a solution that secures network traffic and authentication beyond the limitations of PKI, SSL and VPN.

Secret Double Octopus helps site-to-site, site-to-cloud, mobile and IoT initiatives overcome the security vulnerabilities of today’s encryption protocols. The approach employs secret sharing, eliminating the need for cryptographic keys and providing protection that information theory has postulated as unbreakable.

Secret Double Octopus said it is the first company to use secret sharing to build a network-focused security solution. This enables organizations to keep network traffic and authentication information-theoretically secure. Data is represented by random bits across multiple routes that only when assembled at its destination can be interpreted, hardening communications as a result.

The intellectual property that powers the company’s solutions is based on research conducted at Ben-Gurion University by Prof. Shlomi Dolev, the company's CSO, and Dr. Shimrit Tzur-David, CTO.

“Well-publicized data breaches and security hacks underscore the need to more effectively secure critical networks,” said Raz Rafaeli, Chief Executive Officer at Secret Double Octopus. “By utilizing secret sharing, we’ve taken a new approach to security that eliminates the encryption key, an exploited single point of failure in today’s security paradigm.”

Vapor IO Releases Open Source Platform for Server and Rack Mgt

Vapor IO, a start-up offering a hyper modular data center solution, introduced its Open Data Center Runtime Environment (DCRE) - an open source platform for data center rack and server management.

Vapor IO, which earlier this year introduced its hyper collapsed, disaggregated  data center solution, developed this new OpenDCRE software to simplify data center infrastructure communication. The solution exposes current generation interfaces to data center operators, system and devops administrators, thereby simplifying the programming needed to start automating the physical infrastructure itself.

Vapor IO said OpenDCRE is being released as an open source alternative to proprietary interfaces and custom silicon. This ensures that when a user interacts with their data center, they are communicating over a community owned interface and standard. OpenDCRE is designed to support all data center environments supporting HPE Cloudline and other OCP platforms. OpenDCRE replaces the need for out of band management networks saving users thousands of dollars per rack. Additional features of the product include SSL support, analog sensor and power control support and a simple RESTful API running on Raspberry Pi.

“Data centers have proven to be nothing short of problematic,” said Cole Crawford, founder and CEO of Vapor IO. ”This is primarily due to poorly integrated systems, legacy software and hardware, and the disjointed approach the industry takes to building out data center environments. As IT prepares to support edge based computing, it is imperative we manage and orchestrate our infrastructure as a whole with no prejudice as to where or how many data centers are employed to support our workloads. This is a large feat and we’re thrilled to have support from partners like Future Facilities and Romonet as we move forward.”
OpenDCRE is now available for download and has already generated support from partners such as Future Facilities and Romonet.

Microsemi Revises Offer to Acquire PMC

Microsemi increased its proposal to acquire PMC-Sierra to $9.22 in cash and 0.0771x of a share of Microsemi common stock for each share of PMC common stock. The implied enterprise value is $2.3 billion, net of PMC's net cash balance as of Sept. 27, 2015. Based on the closing stock price of Microsemi on Nov. 17, 2015, the transaction is valued at $12.05 per PMC share.

"The board of PMC chose not to recommend to their shareholders our previous proposal, which was $0.17 per share higher than the existing offer from Skyworks," said James J. Peterson, Microsemi's chairman and CEO. "Our revised offer delivers even more value to shareholders and we have addressed PMC's preference in increasing the cash component of our proposal. Because we are not subject to the same uncertainty regarding regulatory approvals, our unique ability to close this transaction represents the best approach to realizing the value of PMC in a timely manner, consistent with the board's fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders."

Microsemi Expands Clock Management Solutions

Microsemi introduced three new products in its portfolio of clock management solutions: ZL30244 and ZL30245 , two dual-channel any-to-any clock multiplier and frequency synthesizer integrated circuits (ICs), and ZL30255 , a dual-channel any-to-any clock multiplier and jitter attenuator. Target applications for the devices include access networks, storage area networks, data center infrastructure, enterprise infrastructure, and video broadcast equipment.

"Our three new clock management solutions build upon the success of Microsemi's single-channel versions, ZL30250/251 and ZL30253, further expanding product capabilities for our customers to reduce design complexity and lower bill of material costs," said Maamoun Seido, vice president and business unit manager of Microsemi's timing products. "Providing the second channel in these devices further simplifies and reduces the cost of designs. For clock trees that require multiple frequency families, the ZL30244, ZL30245 and ZL30255 provide lower chip count and lower cost solutions—all with exceptional jitter performance."

VimpelCom to Exit Zimbabwe

VimpelCom will sell its stake in Telecel International Limited to ZARNet (Private) for $40 million. Telecel International owns 60% of Telecel Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd.

ZARNet is wholly owned by the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Information & Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services.