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Cooling Tops User Energy Issues

As users wrestle with spiraling energy costs, many IT managers are turning their attention to cooling systems, which have now surpassed server and storage hardware as the big data center power hogs.

At a user event in New York today, CIOs and analysts explained how the big chill can mean big money. "Power and cooling have become the number one problem for data centers today," said Michelle Bailey, vice president of data center trends at IDC, during a keynote this morning.

"We're hearing that anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of energy costs are not IT-based," explained the analyst, adding that this is being driven by chiller cabinets, air conditioning, and power distribution units (PDUs).

These sentiments were echoed by Gerard Shockley, assistant director of technical services at Boston University. "These are all huge consumers of power," he said, highlighting the energy impact of chillers and air conditioners in his own data center. "I would estimate that the majority of the power consumption is for cooling."

The Green Grid Association, a consortium of users and vendors which aims to address these issues, estimates that IT hardware consumes less than one third of the energy pumped into a data center. Chiller cabinets are the major consumers, typically consuming 33 percent of power, followed by UPSes (18 percent), according to the group's research. Air conditioning units and PDUs account, respectively, for 9 percent and 5 percent of users' energy bills.

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