High-Density Data Centers: Driving Efficiency and Lowering Costs

Luke Harrison

Power and cooling demands are increasing exponentially and it’s an advantage – environmentally and for businesses – if companies can handle a lot more power in the same space. High-density data centers help drive environmental and operational cost efficiencies. A high-density data center supports the power and cooling capabilities of more than 12KW per work cell, versus the 6KW average. A work cell is a repeating unit of cold aisle, equipment rack, and hot aisle and represents the square footage of a specific rack of equipment. Simply put, the more network, compute, storage and service you can deliver per work cell cost, the better it is for everyone on the planet.

For example, one Fortune 100 organization’s power density inefficiency resulted in its older servers consuming 60% of the energy, but only contributing 4% of the compute capacity. The chart below from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) shows the rate at which data center density has been increasing over time as measured by watts per equipment square feet.

High Density-ASHRE Chart

Source: ASHRAE Datacom Trend Chart showing increasing density over time

The trends driving high density

The trends driving this increase in data center density include:

  • Power and cooling cost allocations accounting for 80% of the infrastructure operating costs
  • Reduced distance in cable runs and networks
  • Reduced cooling and space footprint
  • Power and cooling availability and efficiency
  • Virtualization and cloud-dense workloads
  • Moore’s Law

The opportunity for businesses with large infrastructures and deployments to gain significant efficiencies and competitiveness is a very real benefit. One of our customers wiped $2 billion off their power cooling bill worldwide by investing in the Open Compute Project. This means that as a major consumer of infrastructure services, Equinix has the means and access to drive the same kind of efficiency gains that the super-scale giants have.

The value/benefit of high density data centers

In this example of the total cost of ownership difference between low density (measured at 4KW/rack) versus high density (measured at 12KW) data centers across five Equinix EMEA sites (London, France, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland), most major sites reduced their CAPEX by 50% and OPEX costs by 20%.

High Density graph2

How Equinix does high-density data centers

Equinix and its Global Solutions Architects (GSAs) can be integral to supporting the development of current- and future-state data center architectures as part of our data center and service transformation programs. For example, Equinix worked in the U.K. with a wealth management company which started with a nine rack requirement, and we deployed six racks yielding a 30% reduction in space and cooling area.

We enable the success of customers’ data center infrastructures by helping them to:

  • Deconstruct, optimize and reconstruct a solution based on business needs, not IT habits
  • Provide a hybrid approach, integrating old and new equipment
  • Involve connectivity, storage and backup service providers
  • Plan for future cloud utilization
  • Leverage exchange platforms to establish new revenue streams and gain access to existing markets without impacting infrastructure deployment complexity or physical capacity
  • Increase the core peering metro density in transport layer and switch/router fabrics to support the next generation of user demand and traffic growth without additional network platforms and equipment
  • Conduct ongoing reviews for power efficiency and density, such as the need to host low-density backup platforms and use the backup services available in the data center ecosystem to improve service operation and power density between 10-20%; plan for further gains closer to 40% by covering other storage services, and then compute and power density

Equinix’s adoption of a long-term commitment to be 100% powered by clean and renewable energy sets an important new bar for colocation as more and more customers make greenhouse gas and renewable energy commitments. We will continue to work hard to define a clear competitive advantage by driving high-density data center efficiencies and lowering costs.


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