Dell talks up the green datacenter

Dell has written a post on sustainability that swerves away from direct energy consumption numbers and says a comprehensive strategy is needed to create a green datacenter.

Travis Vigil, Dell
Travis Vigil

The blog by Travis Vigil, Dell’s SVP for Infrastructure Solutions Group Portfolio Management, follows VAST Data’s recent public claims that its all-flash Universal Storage filer uses less electricity than Dell’s PowerScale storage and PowerProtect backup.

Vigil says: “At Dell, we believe strongly that it’s every technology provider’s responsibility to prioritize going green and to deliver technology that will drive human progress.

“On occasion, we see our peers challenge our position on the sustainability features of one solution or another. While we welcome the increased focus on creating a sustainable future, we also know that looking at a single solution, or even one aspect of a solution, will not drive the results that are critically important to get to a green datacenter and more profitable bottom line.”

The blog cites International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that in 2018, 1 percent of all electricity was used by datacenters and an IEA report warning a “tsunami of data could consume one-fifth of global electricity by 2025.” 

Vigil says: “Creating a green datacenter requires a strategic, all-encompassing approach, inclusive of the right partners, to drive the desired results.”

He says Dell partners with “customers on reducing carbon footprint in the datacenter, factoring in how to optimize things like power, energy efficiency, cooling and thermals, rack space and performance per watt. And that’s just the hardware. We also focus on other important factors like datacenter design, hot/cold aisle containment, cooling methods and energy sources.”

Vigil adds: “When it comes to creating a green datacenter, the strategy must be comprehensive, and not with just a single solution, in mind. A photograph of trees can provide a façade of greenery but it lacks the depth and substance that exist within a real forest.”

He admits legacy hardware is a key contributor to high carbon footprints in the datacenter and says Dell is designing hardware to increase energy efficiency. It has reduced energy intensity in HCI products (VxRail and PowerFlex) by up to 83 percent since 2013. PowerEdge server efficiency has increased by 29 percent over the previous generation. PowerMax storage is 40 percent more efficient than the previous generation.

These comparisons are of energy intensity and not raw consumption, although they can mean reduced electricity consumption as well. For example, an all-flash PowerMax will use less electricity than an equivalent capacity all-disk array. But another example could be a 4,000W storage array with a 100TB capacity being replaced by an 8,000W array with a 1,000TB capacity. Electricity consumption has doubled but energy intensity in watt/TB terms has improved fivefold from 0.025 to 0.125.

Vigil says of PowerMax that energy intensity improvements come through the use of things like flash storage, data deduplication, and compression. These enable “customers to consolidate their hardware and save energy, reducing their physical footprint.” One such customer, Fresenius Medical Care, said: “PowerMax has allowed us to reduce our datacenter footprint by 50 percent, while decreasing power and cooling costs by more than 35 percent.”

Vigil mentions Dell’s OpenManage Enterprise (OME) Power Manager software, which enables customers to monitor and manage server power based on consumption and workload needs, as well as keep an eye on the thermal conditions. OME Power Manager provides:

  • Monitoring and manage power and thermal consumption for individual and groups of servers
  • Reporting to help meet sustainability goals:
    • CO2 emissions from the PowerEdge servers as it relates to usage
    • Idle Servers
  • Utilizing policies to set power caps at the rack or group level
  • Utilizing enhanced visualization of datacenter racks with power and thermal readings
  • Reporting power on virtual machine usage for a physical device
  • Viewing and comparing server performance metrics

This could usefully be extended to other products in Dell’s portfolio, such as storage nodes in a cluster.

Vigil says: “We believe our advantage is that we not only work to lower the complete carbon footprint of each product in our portfolio, but that we also provide solutions for the entire ecosystem that contribute to the datacenter footprint.” 


The term “energy intensity” is used to indicate the inefficiency of an economy or product. In economic terms it’s calculated as units of energy per unit of GDP. In product terms it’s calculated as units of energy per product output or activity, such as as per TB or per IO.