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Montgomery County Public Schools Data Center Team Put Energy Efficiency Lessons into Action

Montgomery County Public Schools data center team members reviewing system upgrades photo credit Montgomery County Public Schools

By David Giusti Energy Program Manager

All data centers provide round-the-clock sensors to monitor power, temperature, humidity, fire, and other mechanical functionals for critical IT infrastructure. Data centers use 100 – 200 times more energy than a typical office building, running 24 / 7 / 365. In 2017, US data centers required more than 90 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity = the energy generated from 34 massive coal-powered plants. Energy efficiency at data centers has never been more important.

Maryland was the first in the nation to offer a targeted energy efficiency program for data centers with the Data Center Energy Efficiency Grant (DCEEG). Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) received a $127,000 DCEEG award in fiscal year 2018, to install more energy efficient technology in their data center. MCPS’s data center operates, monitors, and provides technical support for central servers and related equipment allowing 24-hour access to essential student and administrative databases as well as payroll, student attendance and enrollment, retirement, asset management, financial management, report cards, and online ordering.

MCPS implement numerous upgrades including server virtualization, replacement and migration of storage area networks to reduce energy consumption of servers. Air flow optimization measures such as rack enclosure cooling blanking panels; all as part of a multiphase data center improvement project were also implemented. These upgrades are expected to save MCPS over $21,000 annually or 180,695 kilowatt hours which is enough to power roughly 600 laptop computers for 8 hours. This project was co-sponsored by MCPS’ Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI) and Department of Facilities Management’s (DFM) Energy Resource Team.

Shela Plank, Energy Manager, DFM Energy Resource Team photo credit MCPS

MCPS hopes to reinvest the grant funding to procure software that will give insight into actual server energy usage that is not presently available. This would facilitate and encourage informed decisions in prioritizing and pursuing larger ticket/cost items where greater energy savings and efficiencies could be realized. 

“These are exciting times for MCPS. Total energy consumption for the two-year project has been reduced significantly after the addition of new equipment and applications to our data center,” stated Karen Dwyer, Project Manager, MCPS OTI.

Before this project, MCPS did not consider energy efficiency or Energy Star™ ratings purchasing equipment. “MCPS has a new heightened awareness of data center energy consumption, efficiency, and cost associated,” said Shela Plank, Energy Manager, DFM Energy Resource Team. Energy Star rating is now one of the top attributes considered prior to purchases.

Karen Dwyer, Project Manager, MCPS OTI and colleagues photo credit MCPS

Evaluating energy efficiency has changed the culture of the MCPS team, expanding cross-department collaboration. “We are not only looking to address energy efficiency, but also other security and work efficiencies,” added Karen Dwyer, Project Manager, MCPS OTI. “Efficiency is more than a discipline, it is a mindset.”