How to Reduce Data Center Energy Usage

July 20, 2016

A range of strategies to optimize data center efficiency.

Serving as the backbone for the contemporary workplace, data centers and server bases have become integral to the day-to-day operation of a building’s technological presence. With the ever-growing dependency on technology in individual workplaces, the total number of data centers is expected to increase 40% from 2010 to 2020 as building occupants implement their own server bases to centralize networks.

Despite their proliferation, energy usage in data centers has plateaued in recent years. The increase in data centers has not been proportional to energy consumption, as energy usage is only expected to rise 4% from 2014 to 2020.

Although promising, most of the greatest steps in increasing efficiency have come in larger data centers utilized most often by major corporations and organizations. In fact, 60% of data center usage in 2020 is projected to come from small data centers.

However, those who keep servers in smaller data centers or computer rooms have many opportunities to decrease energy usage. These solutions range from simple maintenance strategies to more intricate technological responses.


Starting small, you might be able to save some energy costs through the simple act of tidying up the data center itself.

Cables can accumulate to the point that the functional ones are indistinguishable from those that are unused, resulting in clutter and possible extra energy usage. Additionally, keep any vents on the floor clear to provide proper air flow.

If you can stay ahead of changes in your data center’s configuration by keeping cables together and vents open, you can create space and prevent the buildup of heat that can overtax cooling systems.

Temperature Systems

Decluttering the server base may help some heating and cooling problems but only in small increments. You may require a more comprehensive cooling system to make a large impact on energy usage.

One such temperature-based solution is the implementation of hot and cold aisles. This configuration places a cold aisle between server cabinets where cold air from a computer room air conditioner (CRAC) cools servers, and the hot air is emitted from the other sides of the cabinets into the hot aisles, where it returns to the CRAC through a hot air return intake. With hot and cold aisles, you can move air of different temperatures with precision to save on cooling.

Optimizing Server Usage

Some servers may only operate as little as 10% of the time, so even if the physical space is organized and cooled properly, the servers themselves might be a major source of wasted energy usage.

Power consumption software and hardware improvements can keep data centers from using more energy than is actually needed during operation.


Servers often run one application at a time, but they can handle a higher workload. You can reduce the amount of hardware in your data center by virtualizing servers.

Using a software application, you can create multiple locations in a given server to run more than one function. This allows a server to multitask, which reduces the total number of servers needed and the energy consumed through their operation and cooling.

If you have a smaller server base, there are likely many opportunities to cut energy costs, but the more action you take will ultimately yield the most savings. Whether you take care of simpler organizational issues, install a new cooling system, implement optimal server methods or any combination of these, you have the potential to save big.

Justin Feit [email protected] is assistant editor of BUILDINGS.

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