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UCS X-Series answers IT’s demands for a more sustainable data center

The popularity and utility of data centers are indisputable, especially as demand for applications, data, and cloud services continues to grow. There are more than seven million data centers in the world today and each data center requires lots of electricity to keep the machines running and from overheating. In fact, data centers consume more electricity than many countries, somewhere between South Africa and Indonesia.

But with intense focus on sustainability and what IT operations can do to promote it, Cisco, our partners, and our customers are exploring many innovative and novel options to reduce data center impact on the environment. This is in line with the research from IDC that revealed the importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues as a corporate priority at all levels of organizations around the world.  In some of their reports, over three in four of the respondents have classified ESG factors as very important to the core value of the entire enterprise, and just under half have signaled that these considerations will be very important in coming tech purchase decisions.

Sustainability: Our customers demand it

In turn, this has motivated the IT industry as a whole into rapid adaptation and action in order to meet more aggressive targets in lowering carbon emissions, reducing waste, extending the life of existing infrastructure. Specifically, our customers are increasingly asking us for help in achieving their own sustainability targets and net-zero emissions. These conversations often revolve around our cloud and compute portfolio (e.g., Cisco Intersight, converged & hyperconverged infrastructure, and the UCS family) including broader themes such as:

  • Optimizing supply chain operations and reporting the continual progress.
  • Decreasing environmental impact of technology product manufacturing.
  • Achieving a more efficient utilization of the physical space, power, and cooling of infrastructure and exceeding industry standard certifications.
  • Making the adaptation of enhanced power management within our sub-components very simple and tied to workload needs.
  • Reducing waste within systems, in the packaging of equipment, and supporting packages.

Two ways the UCS X-Series helps promote sustainability

An integral part of our Sustainable Data Center effort involves simplifying the operations of the components of our computing portfolio. Our showcase product is the Cisco UCS X-Series, a computing platform engineered to be adaptable and future-ready. The X-Series can support modern, cloud-delivered workloads seamlessly by operating as both blade and rack servers through advanced compute density, storage capacity, next-gen peripherals, and expandability in a single system. With a future-ready chassis design that enables fabrics to be independently upgraded, the X-Series can be evolved by our customers to incorporate emerging technologies including those promoting sustainability.

Here’s a deeper dive into the different ways the X-Series is arguably the most sustainable computing platform in its class:

  • Optimized power and heat operations: The X-Series operates as the most efficient computing platform in terms of performance per watt and per BTU in its category. In general workload measurements, we have observed an 11 percent overall improvement over previous generation UCS server chassis based on Server Efficiency Rating Tool (SERT) benchmark results in performance relating to power and cooling in the following ways:
    • Maximum real estate for efficient x86 design: The X-Series offers 7U height of space for best-in-class power and cooling flexibility over others. The X-Series also features more open design for less air impedance and minimal air-handling material (baffles, spreaders, etc.) to reduce the overall resources that need to be sourced and installed within the system.
    • Most efficient power delivery system: The X-Series is equipped with modular, titanium-rated power supply units (PSUs) and 54-volt DC-power delivery system that minimizes the many internal power conversions, internal copper cabling needed, and amperage – saving in both overhead and power loss. The X-Series also offers a Power Entry Module (PEM) that is field replaceable – enabling the flexibility to easily transition to alternative input voltage types, e.g., transitioning to HVDC distribution supplied by onsite renewable micro-grid.
    • Innovative heat dissipation: The X-Series has modular counter-rotating fans with wider apertures and high cubic feet per minute (CFM). It also has innovative zone-based cooling to optimize only those components needing more handling. And with an innovative fan speed algorithm, an industry first, the X-Series can optimize power consumption and minimize hysteresis to prevent fan speed overshot and reduce overall fan power consumption.
    • Modular and shared common infrastructure: Legacy x86 servers had dedicated enclosures, PSUs, risers, modular slots, expanders, headers, fans, etc. that were often unique to that server’s designs. In UCS X-Series we share many components via modularity allowing for extending the life and reducing waste when components are still viable. 
    • Exceed environmental regulations: All of these design and operation advantages add up to enable the X-Series to not only meet but exceed sustainability benchmarks such as Energy Star, EPEAT, EU regulation 2019/424, and many others.
  •  Optimized architecture and maximum component element life: The X-Series innovative design offers architectural advantages that help in key sustainability efforts in modern IT in the following ways:
    • Enhanced Unified Compute experience for x86, storage, network edge: The X-Series builds on the more than a decade of innovations in the UCS family such as stateless infrastructure, cable reduction, network and storage port reduction, adapter reduction, programmatic connectivity, multiple fabrics, and others. Together these minimize elements within the overall system architecture that consume power, generate heat, add costs, management points, and more.
    • Disaggregation of the x86 node: The architecture of the X-Series is able to extend useful life of server elements to help customers achieve refresh cycle disaggregation thereby reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The X-Series offers a “midplane-less” design and the ability to enable future high-speed interconnects that extend the platform life and disaggregate the refresh cycle to individual components only including processors, memory, storage, IO adapter, and fabric. Our plan is to use the midplane-less design to enable the node-slot to be further sub-divided into half-height node slots supporting a single socket compute node to a storage or IO node.
    • Future-ready: Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the X-Series is that it will be able to incorporate new technologies and innovations that are just being incubated today. For example, the X-Series will be ready to adapt Compute Express Link (CXL) to provide an industry standard method for interconnecting elements within a node, via a simple X-Fabric module when the technology is ready. The X-Series was also designed with liquid cooling in mind including open-loop direct attach solutions and potentially immersion cooling.

The X-Series is also designed to support extended operating environments, which enables more free-cooling hours and reduces data center energy consumption. It was also designed with interconnecting silicon photonics in mind with connector types adaptable to optical connects. This will net many benefits including reduction in board layers, heat from copper traces, employing wavelength division multiplexing and others.

Next blog: Sustainability through a hybrid cloud operating model

In part two of this blog series, I’ll cover how a simplified hybrid cloud operations enabled through Cisco Intersight can help customers meet and exceed sustainability goals.

Cisco IT is world-class in many aspects including how this global organization is driving sustainability using technologies such as the UCS X-Series.

For more information please visit Cisco IT Data Center Sustainability.

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Author: Dan Hanson

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