Using RFID to Reduce Energy Consumption in Data Center

reduce-data-center-energy-comsumption-rfid-blogThe New York Times once published an article titled “Power, Pollution and the Internet”, which said “Data centers (in the U.S.) used about 76 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010, or roughly 2% of all electricity was used in the country that year.”

But it’s not the only problem. Many data centers are overcooled, since IT departments don’t want to risk infuriating customers by having servers overheat and go down. In fact, some estimates are that for every megawatt directed toward powering a data center, another 0.5 megawatt is consumed in maintaining proper temperature levels. And as it’s impossible to know the temperature at any one location within a room, most companies simply turn the air conditioning up high.

Companies can choose to use environmental sensors which can track temperatures around server racks, but they cost much. On the other hand, wireless monitoring systems that leverage RFID and sensor technologies can be installed quickly and cost less. They can gather environmental information in real time.

In 2008, California’s Franchise Tax Board, in Sacramento, deployed an RFID-based environmental-monitoring system. With the RFID system in place, the company saw cooling costs drop by nearly 75%.

Microsoft has also installed over 700 RFID sensors to track temperatures on individual racks and shelves within its data centers around the world, enabling it to monitor the temperature or humidity levels around every rack of servers.

In addition, Microsoft Research has developed software, allowing sensor data to be visualized on a map. The map displays the data center’s layout, highlighting any hot zones in real time. It also stores information that can be used for business analytics in the event that Microsoft chooses to evaluate the data center’s condition at a particular time in the past.

In that way, when the temperature threshold is exceeded at any specific location, an alert will be given. The company uses this information to evaluate the conditions throughout the data center, and to adjust temperatures or fan speeds. What’s more, an overheated server can be powered down, or data can be redirected to a different server.

All in all, companies can benefit a lot from RFID-based environmental-monitoring system, both in cutting energy costs and delivering a quick return on investment.