A guide to data centre metrics and standards for start-ups and SMBs
Having made that choice to co-locate your organisation’s servers and infrastructure to a trusted data centre provider, companies need to be able to understand the key metrics and standards which they should use to evaluate and benchmark each data centre operator against. With so many terms to get to grips with and understand, we felt it necessary to address the most prevalent ones for data centres.
Green Grid has developed a series of metrics to encourage greater energy efficiency within the data centre. Here are the top seven which we think you’ll find most useful.
PUE: The most common metric used to show how efficiently data centres are using their energy would have to be Power Usage Effectiveness. Essentially, it’s a ratio of how much energy consumption is it going to take to run a data centre’s IT and servers. This would incorporate things like UPS systems, cooling systems, chillers, HVAC for the computer room, air handlers and data centre lighting for instance vs how much energy is going to run the overall data centre which would be taking into account monitor usage, workstations, switches, the list goes on.
Ideally a data centre’s PUE would be 1.0, which means 100% of energy is used by the computing devices in the data centre – and not on things like lighting, cooling or workstations. LDeX for instance uses below 1.35 which means that for every watt of energy used by the servers, .30 of a watt is being used for data centre cooling and lighting making very little of its energy being used for cooling and power conversion.
CUE: Carbon Usage Effectiveness also developed by The Green Grid complements PUE and looks at the carbon emissions associated with operating a data centre. To understand it better you look at the total carbon emissions due to the energy consumption of the data centre and divide it by the energy consumption of the data centre’s servers and IT equipment. The metric is expressed in kilograms of carbon dioxide (kgCO2eq) per kilowatt-hour (kWh), and if a data centre is 100-percent powered by clean energy, it will have a CUE of zero. It provides a great way in determining ways to improve a data centre’s sustainability, how data centre operators are improving designs and processes over time. LDeX is run on 100% renewable electricity from Scottish Power.
WUE: Water Usage Effectiveness simply calculates how well data centres are using within its facilities. The WUE is a ratio of the annual water usage to how much energy is being consumed by the IT equipment and servers, and is expressed in litres/kilowatt-hour (L/kWh). Like CUE, the ideal value of WUE is zero, for no water was used to operate the data centre. LDeX does not operate chilled water cooling meaning that we do not use water to run our data centre facility.
Power SLAs: Service Level Agreements is the compensation offered in the unlikely event that power provided by the data centre operator to a client as part of an agreement is lost and service is interrupted affecting your company’s business. The last thing your business wants is to have people being unable to access your company’s website and if power gets cut out from your rack for some reason, make sure you have measures in place.
Data centres refer to the Uptime Institute for guidance with regards to meeting standards for any downtime. The difference between 99.671%, 99.741%, 99.982%, and 99.995%, while seemingly nominal, could be significant depending on the application. Whilst no down-time is ideal, the tier system allows the below durations for services to be unavailable within one year (525,600 minutes):
- Tier 1 (99.671%) status would allow 1729.224 minutes
- Tier 2 (99.741%) status would allow 1361.304 minutes
- Tier 3 (99.982%) status would allow 94.608 minutes
- Tier 4 (99.995%) status would allow 26.28 minutes
LDeX has infrastructure resilience rated at Tier 3 status offering customers peace of mind that in the unlikely event of an outage–and therefore protecting your business. We like to operate closed control cooling systems in our facilities enabling us to operate tight environmental parameter SLA’s. LDeX operate SLA Cold Aisle Temperature parameters at 23degreesC +/- 3 degreesC and RH (Relative Humidity) 35% – 60%.
Some data centres run fresh air cooling systems which make it hard to regulate RH and quite often their RH parameters are 205 – 80% and beyond. This can lead to increased humidity in the data hall and has on occasion resulted in rust on server components or a low RH can produce static electricity within the data hall. Make sure you look into this and ask about it.
Understand the ISO standards that matter to your business
ISO 50001 – Energy management
Using energy efficiently helps organisations save money as well as helping to conserve resources and tackle climate change. ISO 50001 supports organisations in all sectors to use energy more efficiently, through the development of an energy management system (EnMS).
ISO 50001:2011 provides a framework of requirements for organizations to:
- Develop a policy for more efficient use of energy
- Fix targets and objectives to meet the policy
- Use data to better understand and make decisions about energy use
- Measure the results
- Review how well the policy works, and
- Continually improve energy management
ISO 27001 – Information Security Management
Keeping your company’s intellectual property should be a top priority for your business and ensuring that your data centre provider offers this sort of resilience is imperative. The ISO 27000 family of standards helps organizations keep information assets secure.
Using this will help your organization manage the security of assets such as financial information, intellectual property, employee details or information entrusted to you by third parties.
ISO/IEC 27001 is the best-known standard in the family providing requirements for an information security management system (ISMS). An ISMS is a systematic approach to managing sensitive company information so that it remains secure. It includes people, processes and IT systems by applying a risk management process.
It can help small, medium and large businesses in any sector keep information assets secure.
Like other ISO management system standards, certification to ISO/IEC 27001 is possible but not obligatory. Some organizations choose to implement the standard in order to benefit from the best practice it contains while others decide they also want to get certified to reassure customers and clients that its recommendations have been followed. ISO does not perform certification.
PCI DSS – Banks and businesses alike conduct a lot of transactions over the internet. With this in mind, the PCI Security Standards Council (SSC) developed a set of international security standards to ensure that service providers and merchants have payment protection whether from a debit, credit or company purchasing card. As of 1st January 2015, PCI DSS 2.0 will become mandatory. This will be broken down into 12 requirements ranging from vulnerability assessments to encrypting data. Make sure to ask if your data centre operator has this standard.
With the increased stakeholder scrutiny that has been placed on data centres, steps need to be put in place to make sure that the data centre operator that you are looking at choosing is aligning its strategy not only to some of these metrics and standards mention, but to other security, environmental governmental regulations that have been brought in.
Working for a successful data centre and network services provider like LDeX has enabled me as a relative newbie to the data centre industry, to get to grips with these terms to facilitate client understanding regarding where LDeX sits in comparison with our competitors.
Anne-Marie Lavelle, Group Marketing Executive at LDeX Group