Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE): A Complete Guide

power sources in a data center

Last Updated on March 30, 2022 by Josh Mahan

Today, data centers need adequate processing power to deliver services to their customers and support those vital applications. All of that hardware in the data center’s infrastructure requires a lot of power. For that reason, power efficiency is essential in a data center. By monitoring your Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), you can understand your energy usage. Here’s our complete guide to Power Usage Effectiveness.

Are you currently searching for top-quality solutions to plan, power, and monitor your data center? At Alterum Technologies, we are ready to help you have a better data center experience!

What Is PUE?

Power Usage Effectiveness is a metric providing you with the total amount of power your data center uses. With this number, you can measure the center’s energy efficiency. Knowing the PUE is a great place to start if you are looking for a solution to decrease your power consumption.

Introduced in 2006 by the Green Grid, PUE calculates the energy efficiency in a data center. It has quickly become the measuring metric for all data centers across the globe. As you may know, data centers use a massive amount of energy. In the United States, it is estimated that data centers make up about 2% of all electricity use in the country.

Related: Understanding Data Center Energy Consumption

As the demand for processing power increases, that power usage will continue to rise. Many data centers have underutilized servers that use energy and take up space on the floor. Along with that, ineffective hardware uses more power, placing a heavier demand on the data center’s cooling systems. 

These assets are driving up costs while providing less value to your data center in those situations. When you address those problems areas, you can ensure that the data center is efficiently operating
With PUE, you can determine your data center’s efficiency and measure the impact of any potential changes to your energy usage.

Calculating PUE

If you want to calculate PUE, there is a simple formula:

  • PUE = Total facility power / IT equipment energy

The amount of power a facility uses is known as the total facility power. That number includes the data center’s hardware, inducing power delivery components, lighting systems, and cooling systems. 

For example, if your data center uses 100,000 kilowatts of total energy and all of the IT equipment uses 55,000 kilowatts, you would have 1.81 PUE for the data center. 

The most efficient data centers have a PUE number that is closer to 1. With Power Usage Effectiveness, data center managers can see how close that number is to their goals. When you measure your PUE over time, it can help determine whether you have the most efficient use of your energy. As you may have guessed, a data center with a high PUE uses more energy than it should, making you spend more money on your energy bills. 

Related: Types of Cloud Computing & How They Differ

Determining a Great PUE Score

According to the Uptime Institute, the average PUE for most data centers remains at 1.59. Now that you understand what PUE means for your data center, how do you determine some of those calculations?

If you want to measure the total facility power of your data center, take your measurement at the utility meter. In some cases, you can install a shadow meter, allowing you to gather daily measurements of the facility’s power usage. However, that can be difficult if you have a mixed-use facility. With that, you need to take the measurement at the meter where all the data centers are powered for a more accurate reading.

Measuring the energy usage of IT equipment is a little easier. You can always take your measurements from the power distribution unit (PDU) that supplies power to your network and connected computers.

When you have the figures for the IT equipment energy and the total facility energy, you can calculate the PUE of the data center. As you already guessed, collecting this information requires you to be on-site, and it is a time-consuming process. You can get real-time readings and collect energy usage data with the Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software. With this software, you can measure your energy usage across your data center and monitor the network’s performance. Along with tracking PUE in real-time, you can watch the center’s total energy consumption over a period of time. That allows you to improve your energy performance.

a circuit board in the data centers hardware 1 2
a circuit board in the data center’s hardware

Lowering Your PUE

Now that you know your PUE, there are a few ways to lower your number.

Replace Inefficient Hardware

Unfortunately, hardware will not last forever. With this limited life cycle, you will need to replace the hardware when it starts to show signs of declining performance. When you notice that your storage systems or servers are not performing at an efficient level, then replace them with more efficient hardware.

Virtualize Your Servers

When you virtualize your servers, you take a physical server and use software to partition it. Every partition works like its own virtual server and operating system. With that, every virtual machine will run its own workload, saving you valuable floor space and cutting down on energy consumption. Along with that, you can use virtual servers to test out new software without affecting other servers or computers.

an energy efficient data center 2

Improving Cooling Systems

Without efficient cooling, the data centers would overheat. Remember that cooling systems use a lot of power and are considered energy-intensive. When you improve your existing cooling systems, you can lower your PUE. Some data centers are turning to free cooling methods, which allow naturally cool air to reduce the data center’s temperature. 

Related: How to Cool a Server Room Properly

Final Thoughts

In every IT operation, the data center is the heart of the organization. However, the infrastructure and hardware use a massive amount of energy. PUE is a valuable metric to measure the energy efficiency of your data center. With a high PUE, your data center uses more resources than average. Replacing ineffective hardware, improving your cooling system, and virtualizing servers are a few steps to lower your PUE. As a result, you can get more value out of your data center by reducing operating costs. 

Are you looking for solutions to help you build or operate an efficient data center? At Alterum Technologies, our team of designers, project managers, and procurement specialists will work with you to plan, power, and operate your next data center. 

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