Energy Assessments: the Key to Unlocking Value in the Data Center

Managers responsible for data centers operations don’t need much convincing on the importance of energy efficiency.

According to a recent survey of more than 2,000 data center managers and other stakeholders conducted in 2012 by the Uptime Institute, 57 percent named data center energy reduction as “very important” to their companies, while 39 percent rated it “somewhat important” to their companies overall. Financial savings was easily the top driver (82 percent) for energy efficiency among survey respondents.

Yes, the data center market is getting to the point where we don’t have to do as much convincing on the importance of energy efficiency. Where the market still needs help is in establishing the strategies and tactics that will actually achieve energy efficiency. This is where the value of energy assessments comes in.

To find out more about energy assessments, I recently posed a few questions to Bobby Drought, a Schneider Electric Energy Management Consultant. Drought is a key member of the team of consultants, energy management engineers, and specially trained field service engineers who conduct energy assessment services for Schneider Electric in North America. Resellers can be involved in selling these services, and in following up with clients on the post assessment reports and improvements.

This video gives more background on what’s involved and delivered. Schneider Electric also has some new sales support documents on the energy assessment services, which can be sent to interested resellers.

Question: Bobby, is there any single problem you most commonly find via energy assessments?

Drought: It is hard to generalize, from a product perspective, about what wastes the most energy in the typical data center. Sure, there many common problems, like air-flow issues, or outdated power protection equipment including UPS [uninterruptable power supply], but there is no one single product or even issue that we can elevate to the status of energy efficiency panacea for all data centers. But there is a good starting point for discovering what would help most any data center: energy assessment services.

Question: What’s the value derived from energy assessments?

Drought: For resellers, helping to sell these services positions you as an advisor that can help define an effective energy reduction strategy for the data center, and help implement pieces of that strategy with product sales and support. Of course, for end user companies, energy assessments put you on a measurable path to real savings, aligning their energy goals with investments capabilities in a vendor-neutral way.

In North America, Schneider Electric has a team of energy management consultants, energy management engineers, and field service engineers who are experts in conducting energy assessments, including EnergyStep1 and a full range of other assessment services. Resellers can and should help sell these services and are often vital partners in presenting assessment reports and assisting the client with implementing recommendations. Our team conducts the assessments, and can support resellers as much as needed in presenting report findings and follow-up services.

Question: What should we keep in mind when positioning the value of energy assessment services?

Drought: I’m a firm believer in leading with energy assessment services because there will always be differences among data centers in what are the biggest sources of energy inefficiencies. Do we see common problems? Sure, air flow and cooling issues, which can sometimes be addressed by low-cost fixes like blanking panels, is one common problem, as is the lack of proper monitoring that plagues many facilities, which would immediately benefit from remote monitoring services or data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software or services.

Often times, these common problems aren’t immediately visible without data collection and assessment. The data center operators might only know that they must improve their overall efficiency metrics, or get to the root cause of an outage, or that they have remote sites or network closets that they have little or no performance visibility over.

My bottom line on this issue is that  if you want to help a client’s bottom line, you must remember that every data center is different, so to establish the best energy efficiency strategy and begin implementing fixes, it’s best to start with an assessment.

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