Is your data center ready for Eco Mode?

Is your data center ready for Eco Mode?

Is your data center ready for Eco Mode?

Ever run your laptop computer in power-saving mode? If your company makes use of server farms, it can take a similar approach with its data centers, notching substantial energy savings along the way.

The method centers around the so-called "Eco Mode," a setting for uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) that lets the UPS do less work, making the data center more efficient.After being deployed widely in Europe, Eco-Mode is now gaining traction in the U.S.

"There is a tremendous need for improved power efficiency in data centers," said George Navarro, technical solutions engineering specialist at Eaton. "That speaks straight to operations costs."

That's one reason companies that rely on massive computing power should sit up and pay attention.

Eco Mode, which is referred to with various terms by different UPS makers, is now included in the U.S. EPA's Energy Star specifications for UPSs. It has also been recommended by The Green Grid, which released a white paper on Eco Mode to educate data center operators about what's needed to use it most effectively.

Along with making data centers more efficient, Eco Mode can contribute to a lower Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) figure, which has become a key metric for showing how energy efficient a data center is. The PUE measures how much of the energy that comes into the facility goes toward computing power instead of other areas like cooling.

"The UPS, being such a large part of the infrastructure, has been viewed as a loss element in that power system," said Navarro, co-editor of the white paper, referring to a component that contributes to energy loss.

When power comes into a data center, a double-conversion UPS converts the power from AC to DC and then back to AC to resolve any problems due to surges or outages, and to provide a steady output. The energy needed for those conversions reduces the amount available to power the IT equipment. 

Many data centers run at about 94 percent efficiency, but they are sometimes converting power they don’t need to. With Eco Mode, which eliminates the need for AC-to-DC-to-AC conversion, they could get up to 99 percent efficiency, he said. 

What's needed to make Eco Mode work

To implement Eco Mode usefully, a data center essentially needs reliable utility power and the right IT equipment.

If a company's data center is in a region where utility power is not reliable and if there are frequent outages, the UPS will not work in Eco Mode, said Brad Thrash, GE Digital Energy's global product manager for UPS and co-editor of the white paper, which was written with input from a number of Green Grid members like Dell, IBM and Microsoft. 

As for equipment within the data center, each UPS has a transfer time, which is the amount of time that it takes for the UPS to switch over to battery power due to an interruption, and also the time a system is without power.If the transfer time doesn't sync up with the ride-through times of the IT equipment, which is the amount of time equipment can handle dips in energy, then the UPS wouldn't be able to support that equipment. 

As with unreliable utility power, in these cases the Eco Mode would turn off as needed, again reducing potential energy gains.  The white paper, Evaluation of Eco Mode in Uninterruptible Power Supply Systems, is available on The Green Grid's website.

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