Book Review: Making Your Data Center Energy Efficient

Making Your Data Center Energy EfficientMaking Your Data Center Energy Efficient by Gilbert Held is a 2012 book that promised methods to reduce the energy consumption and the costs associated with operating data centers. One method could be using solar power with an installer like Sandbar Solar. The subtitle for Making Your Data Center Energy Efficient chosen by Held offers “How to Save Big on Data Center Energy Costs” which is certainly top of mind for every data center manager these days.

Held begins the book with four chapters on the rationale for energy savings and explanations of common financial calculations such as ROI and IRR; an overview of basic electrical terms and differences in alternative energy sources; followed by an overview of basic heating and cooling; and how to read utility meters.

The second half of the book moves on to tackle data center energy consumption; how to minimize computer energy consumption; and how to make the data center energy efficient.

But here’s the thing. Held never really talks about data center electrical systems with any specificity. He never even mentions some of the common components or their operation. His diagram of a data center electrical system is crude and unrecognizable.

Similarly, Held never fully addresses a typical data center cooling system or its operation. The basic principles of heat transfer and fluid dynamics are never covered which would have gone a long way in helping the reader understand energy consumption and improving energy efficiency.

Most importantly, Making Your Data Center Energy Efficient never addresses one of the major issues of data centers today. That is, it is now becoming more costly to operate your data center than the systems in the data center.

Held also never applies the financial analysis of Chapter 1 so that a data center manager might be able to see this for themselves let alone be able to evaluate an in-house data center to an Internet data center. Instead, Held chooses to devote time to setting home hot water heaters and unnecessary details on computer memory.

Also conspicuously absent from Making Your Data Center Energy Efficient is any discussion on applying ASHRAE TC 9.9 expanded operating bands as a means of saving energy. Held mentions having read about Yahoo’s new data center but never discusses the details or the advantages of modern Internet data center designs that take advantage of higher operating temperatures and alternate cooling strategies.

Making Your Data Center Energy Efficient also never even mentions the use of data center maturity models (DCMM) or the use of data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools as a means of managing data center energy efficiency. There is also no mention of power usage effectiveness (PUE), carbon usage effectiveness (CUE), or water usage effectiveness (WUE).

I have concluded the reason for Held’s missing on all of these points is that he doesn’t understand modern data center systems. This is evidenced by Held relying almost exclusively on residential and generic office building examples through out the book resulting energy savings tips that do not directly relate to data centers.

My conclusion is also supported by Gilbert Held himself who frequently relies on anecdotes from 40 years ago to make his points.

The net of Held’s main recommendations are on tracking down employee cell phone chargers, replacing CRT screens with LCD displays, PC power management, and buying smart power strips to cut down on phantom energy losses.

Even when Held briefly covers ideas like adding capacitor banks for power factor correction he limits the rationale to avoiding a power factor penalty rate. Because the basic electrical concepts he provides in the book never address capacitive or inductive reactance there is no connection for the recommendation or even how to minimize the need for power factor correction in the first place.

Overall, I feel like Held abuses the reader’s patience with long hand formulas and professorial explanations of basic concepts that never get applied. The real sin is that the first four chapters represent 148 pages of 248 page book that never get integrated in the later chapters.

But I also feel like Held has altogether misrepresented what his book is about. I also felt like several sections of the book could have been written about home or office energy savings where someone simply substituted “data center’ for the word ‘home’ or ‘office building’.

Now, I read a lot of books on a wide range of subjects and it is very rare that I find a book like Making Your Data Center Energy Efficient where I just don’t feel it offers enough benefit to warrant the investment of money or time. And so I do not recommend this book and hope you appreciate my honesty.

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2 Responses to Book Review: Making Your Data Center Energy Efficient

  1. Rafael Rosa says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for the honest review, I decided to not buy this book :) Do you have another one to recommend that covers the points you criticized? It would be very helpful to find alternatives.

    Thanks,
    Rafael

  2. The Higher Ed CIO says:

    Rafael I am sure the best place to start that I could recommend is your own instincts. Virtualization and consolidation efforts in the end produce the most reductions and savings as does eliminating the unnecessary systems.If you have made it through the majority of that opportunity, begin looking at converged infrastructure technologies for additional gains. You can read part of my own story in this post on implementing Cisco UCS.

    From there I would also encourage you to exhaust the public resources which are really very good. IN Best Practices Guide for Energy-Efficient Data Center Design published by the US Department of Energy you will find more than enough to work with. The Energy Star Data Center Initiative is another good site with lots of resources.

    But when it comes to actually getting some help including some funding, be sure to call your utility company and talk to their energy efficiency program manager. Sometimes they work with the state to set up a separate non-profit to disburse funds as rebates on energy efficiency projects in data centers. So not only can you get technical advice, they will help defray the cost in some cases can be quit high.

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