‘Energy management in data centres is becoming a software-defined activity’

‘Energy management in data centres is becoming a software-defined activity’

Venkatraman Swaminathan, VP and Country GM, IT Division, Schneider Electric, India, explains how intelligent power management solutions help increase energy efficiency.

Mega data centres and large server farms set up by cloud service providers tend to consume massive amounts of power. Considering the quantity of energy they consume, efficient use of energy is of paramount importance. In this exclusive interaction Venkatraman Swaminathan, VP and Country GM, IT Division, Schneider Electric, India, explains how intelligent power management solutions are helping them optimise energy usage while also helping them reduce their carbon footprint.

Data centres are still some of the major consumers of power. How have things changed for them in the last few years from an energy efficiency standpoint?
Energy use in data centres throughout APAC is rising to match skyrocketing demand. The APAC region consumes 26.5 per cent of the total energy used by data centres around the world and there is no sign of slowing demand. However, the data centre industry is cognizant of the fact and is making sustained efforts towards efficient power management.

In order to reduce the power usage efficiency (PUE) ratio and increase efficiency, data centre designers deploy advanced, intelligent power management solutions such as intelligent rack PDU, smart UPS, and battery monitoring equipment. Intelligent power strips and PUE monitoring devices are some of the newest technologies used to optimise energy consumption and reduce the PUE ratio.

Alongside skills and power processes, the facilities infrastructure itself often needs upgrading to meet today’s efficiency, reliability and flexibility expectations. Power management is increasingly becoming a software-defined activity. Softwares can play an important role in bridging the divide between IT and power by presenting power management options in dashboard styles that are familiar to an IT audience, making it easier to understand and automate.

Data centres have moved toward more virtualized environments. It is an opportunity the industry can use to deploy efficient power management. All power distribution designs and associated resiliency software tools must be compatible with major virtualization vendors to future-proof the infrastructure. This approach will enable data centre professionals to constantly maintain systems, thereby mitigating the risks associated with out-of-date infrastructure.

Clean and green energy is the need of the hour. What are the new solutions from Schneider Electric to help customers reduce their carbon footprint?
At Schneider Electric sustainability extends beyond a vague hope for a cleaner planet. We are committed to investing and creating innovative, compliant and future-ready products that provide an opportunity to implement alternative energy sources and innovative power infrastructure, while leveraging new technologies, delivering better uptime and ensuring safety and energy efficiency without compromising on daily operations. In a bid to achieve this goal we have launched EcoStruxure Power—a unified platform that brings together our industry-leading connected products, edge control, apps, analytics and services into a connected and integrated framework for all areas of power distribution and management chains.

We optimise resources by developing a circular supply chain with clean and safe facilities powered by renewable energy. From 2015 to end-2017 we had a new CO2 transport emissions reduction program, to reduce emissions by 10% over 3 years. At the end of 2017 we had reduced them by an average of 10.3%. We plan to further reduce our emissions by 10% from 2018 to 2020.

How is increased cloud adoption by enterprises impacting the energy sector?
With companies around the world getting increasingly dependent on cloud storage, there has been a proliferation in the volume of data centres, which in turn consume a huge amount of energy. It is estimated that every year around 3 per cent of electricity generated is consumed by such facilities. It has also resulted in the rising adoption of mega and cloud data centres. These facilities require power in large quantities for peak data-intensive operations, which subsequently drives demand for UPS and PDUs. Also, the shift toward colocation and hyperscale data centres is expected to fuel the demand for data centre power equipment over the years.

What sort of innovations can we expect to see in the energy efficiency space in the days to come?
The golden rule of data centre power management is to have proper processes and power system design in place that can prevent outrages and help improve efficiency and reduce downtime. We expect to see innovations to have the basics in place.

Upskilling staff to make them fully confident in power management will also be a key area of growth. There is a requirement to train and acquire employees for designing energy efficient products, managing consumption on an on-going basis, or dealing with power-related failures quickly and effectively to avoid and mitigate outages.

The facilities infrastructure itself also needs upgrading to meet today’s efficiency, reliability and flexibility expectations. We’ll be seeing innovations driving this up-gradation process.

With the increasing adoption of cloud Schneider Electric has undergone its own internal transformation. What are some of the changes it has brought to your portfolio?
We are focusing on agile interconnection, rich connectivity, and high-density power for the new requirements of distributed applications/workloads.

There is a lot of attention on data centre energy consumption and being more efficient to support the trend towards distributed applications/workloads. It’s not a problem that can be solved by products alone. We need smart, connected products overlaid with an Internet of Things (IoT) enabled architecture to provide data centre operators the best information to make the best decisions. EcoStruxure is designed to ensure this.

Having the ability to aggregate data and analyse it to create meaningful insights to take action in real-time based on business logic is the need of the hour. We are working towards the overall optimisation of data centre operation—from the lifecycle management of assets to asset performance and operational efficiency.

With the EcoStruxure platform—a vendor agnostic system—we can collect data from a wide variety of devices and manufacturers. The real force multiplier comes through maximising the value of the data collected by translating it into actionable intelligence. Being able to predict future alarms or when maintenance will be needed, overall asset health and asset risk analysis is a key offering that has immensely benefited customers.