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The Network's Role in Data Center Efficiency

Networking components are becoming a larger part of data center energy consumption, writes Kate Brew of Anue Systems. That places a premium on energy and space requirements for network security and network monitoring tools.

Kate Brew is a Product Marketing Manager for Anue Systems.

Kate Brew, Anue SystemsKATE BREW
Anue Systems

As the demand for data center efficiency rises along with the demands for higher bandwidth, speed and performance, facility managers worldwide are challenged to conserve available space and energy, and “do more with less.” As a result, data center professionals, IT managers and networking staff are likely to share the burden of conserving energy, as everyone responsible for the IT facility will play a role in reducing operations costs of the ever-evolving data center.

Energy Demands Continue

According to the September 2011 report by Forrester Research, Inc., Power and Cooling Heat Up the Data Center, energy costs currently comprise approximately 70% of the operations costs of the average data center facility. The report states that the data center rack is becoming a bottleneck due to increased rack space and energy demands.

In addition, airflow restrictions create limits on rack space cooling capabilities.  As confirmed in the Forrester Research report, wide spacing between networking appliances (required to achieve adequate heat dissipation) is a leading cause of wasted rack space and overall data center inefficiency.  In a worst case scenario, up to two-thirds of the rack space can be unusable due to cooling limitations.

Considering Networking Energy Consumption

While networking  alone comprises approximately 9 percent of the average data center’s power consumption today (as noted in the May 2011 report entitled Networks Go GrEEN, based on detailed figures from the EPA Final Report to Congress 2007) , this is not the complete picture for the future. Networking components are expected to become an increasing portion of data center energy consumption as servers and storage become more efficient, leading to a higher percentage of power consumption coming from network management tools. Therefore, energy and space requirements for network security and network monitoring tools will become an increasingly important factor for organizations to consider going forward.

With these considerations in mind, it is important to understand that data center networking tools, such as network monitoring switches, can effectively reduce traditional data center energy and cooling needs. Network monitoring switches, primarily used to eliminate the limitations of TAP and SPAN port connections for increased network visibility, can also be used to reduce the duplication of network traffic on monitoring tools. The de-duplication functionality serves to increase the performance and efficiency of the facility’s network monitoring solutions and can result in less monitoring equipment and lower energy bills.

Hardware and Rack Space

Another aspect is the network monitoring switch hardware itself, which can be as little as 1U or as much as 14U in rack space. It is becoming increasingly important for data center managers to know how to identify smaller and more energy efficient network monitoring switches.

To find a specific network monitoring switch that is highly efficient, look for the following three specifications:

  • High density: Determine how many network ports and tools can be configured for the appliance.
  • Minimized rack space: Determine how much physical space is required for the appliance, independent of rack configuration.
  • Low power consumption (low watts per port): Determine how much actual power consumption per port will be consumed. This will be important for energy conservation, and possibly even more important for rack heat dissipation reasons.

To improve data center efficiency, facility managers and engineers need to consider these specifications, as well as increased efficiency of network monitoring tools possible with a network monitoring switch.  A well-chosen network monitoring switch can be an important step in the evolution to an increasingly green data center.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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