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Sentry Software Achieves 15% Electricity Savings in Data Center through Temperature Optimization

Sentry Software, a member of the Green IT community, successfully reduced its data center's electricity consumption by 15% while also lowering carbon emissions.

Sentry Software Achieves 15% Electricity Savings in Data Center through Temperature Optimization

Sentry Software's journey began when we joined SBTi (Science Based Targets initiative) and committed to reducing our scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 46% before 2030. To realize this ambitious goal, we embarked on the following process:

  1. Estimating carbon emissions.
  2. Formulating an action plan to minimize GHG emissions.
  3. Implementing the plan.

Estimating Carbon Emissions

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sentry Software has eliminated carbon emissions from employee commuting as a fully remote company. However, their primary source of emissions stemmed from their on-premises data center, comprising over 100 systems from various vendors. In IT, carbon emissions arise from either the manufacturing and shipping of physical devices (embodied emissions) or the electricity consumed to power these devices (operational emissions). In data centers, operational emissions can account for up to 90% of the overall carbon footprint, with cooling systems constituting a substantial portion of electricity usage. Significant carbon emissions reductions can be achieved by simply raising the temperature in data centers. Sentry Software chose this approach to lower its GHG emissions.

Setting up an Action Plan

Once we identified the primary source of our carbon emissions and the necessary actions, we devised an execution plan, as follows:

  1. Assess the energy consumption of the data center.
  2. Determine the optimal temperature for the data center.
  3. Gradually increase the data center's temperature.
  4. Evaluate the results.

Executing the Plan

Assessing Energy Usage

We initially referred to our monthly electricity bill to gain insights into energy consumption and carbon emissions. Although informative, this document did not provide detailed information on energy usage. While Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) tools could offer a more granular view, they were costly and complex to implement for an SME like Sentry Software. To address this, we leveraged our own monitoring tool, Hardware Sentry, to measure the power consumed by each system and calculate the overall energy usage of the IT infrastructure.

Hardware Sentry measures the power consumed by each system and calculates the overall energy usage of the IT infrastructure

We created dedicated Grafana dashboards to make this information available to stakeholders, displaying real-time data on the data center's power consumption, daily/monthly/yearly energy consumption, and resulting CO₂ emissions.

Watch the Hardware Sentry Dashboards for Grafana Live

Estimating the Optimal Temperature

Initially, we maintained our data center at 18 degrees Celsius to prevent unplanned outages caused by overheating. However, this temperature was lower than the acceptable range recommended by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (18-27°C for server rooms). Our team consulted Hardware Sentry's maximum temperature recommendation to determine the most appropriate temperature. On the first day, the data center operated at 17.7°C, but Hardware Sentry indicated no heating margin. In fact, it suggested lowering the ambient temperature to 17°C for the server room's safety.

On the first day, the data center operated at 17.7°C, but Hardware Sentry indicated no heating margin

By monitoring the temperature sensors of each system using Hardware Sentry, we could identify systems at risk of overheating and relocate them closer to the airflow source. This adjustment increased the heating margin, allowing the team to gradually raise the data center's temperature.

Hardware Sentry helped identify systems at risk of overheating and relocate them closer to the airflow source.

Gradually Increasing the Data Center's Temperature

Every morning, the system administrators configured the air conditioning system to a new target temperature and monitored the changes on the dashboards. If no warnings or alerts were triggered by Hardware Sentry, they continued increasing the cooling setpoint. The temperature could be raised to 27 degrees Celsius before Hardware Sentry issued a warning.

The temperature of data center could be raised to 27 degrees Celsius before Hardware Sentry issued a warning.

Assessing the Results

The temperature increases from 18°C to 27°C resulted in a 15% reduction in energy consumption for air conditioning and a 7% decrease in carbon emissions. These impressive results were achieved solely through temperature optimization, without additional actions. While the energy reduction fell slightly short of expectations, other data centers can achieve similar savings. We encourage other companies interested in minimizing the environmental impact of their IT infrastructure to download the freely available solution, Hardware Sentry, along with the associated Grafana dashboards.

Sentry Software's success story showcases the positive environmental impact of temperature optimization in data centers. By raising the temperature, we achieved significant energy savings and emissions reductions. This achievement can inspire other organizations to follow suit and adopt sustainable practices in their IT infrastructure.

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