Monitoring & Controls

Monitoring and controls are essential to effective energy management, providing both the measurements to diagnose energy waste and the operational tools to respond.


Monitoring data center performance is key for understanding the current energy use baseline as well as opportunities for improvement. Metering and monitoring systems lay the groundwork for continuous data center improvement, enabling organizations to develop processes that leverage current operations information to identify future energy efficiency opportunities. There are a full range of metering and monitoring solutions available to the industry. From analyzing data from individual sensors to fully integrated data center infrastructure management (DCIM) systems, there are solutions available to fit different needs and budgets. Higher level metrics such as power usage effectiveness (PUE) can enable users to benchmark their performance against similar data centers. More granular data such as system-level monitoring can provide key insights that equip data center owners and operators with the information they need fine tune equipment and setpoints.

High-Level Best Practices

Two key aspects of energy management are metrics and benchmarking performance. Key metrics include power usage effectiveness (PUE), partial PUEs (e.g., for HVAC, electrical distribution), energy reuse (ERF), utilization, and in the future peak flops per Watt and transactions per Watt for information performance versus energy consumed.

Benchmarking allows for a comparison to peers, the identification of opportunities and best practices, and tracking of performance over time. Data center energy and water use can be tracked and benchmarked through ENERGY STAR's Portfolio Manager, which also calculates PUE.

Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) is a comprehensive approach that has received increasing attention in the last few years. DCIM enables operators to monitor, manage, and control energy usage; inventory components; design and procure system elements; assess needs for redundancy; and track capacity for IT and infrastructure. The DCIM approach is often complex, and a standard definition does not exist. However, the term generally entails software that communicates with data center equipment  (e.g., IT, cooling and power infrastructure) to collect data and turn that data into useful information. With the communication mechanism in place, controls can act on this information to efficiently reduce energy use while maintaining or improving reliability.

Key best practices include:

  • Conduct an energy audit
  • Create a project integration team
  • Establish continual improvement goals
  • Measure efficiency with established metrics
  • Benchmark performance
  • Evaluate and use monitoring systems for real-time management and efficiency
  • Install power monitoring
  • Use visualization tools and dashboards
  • Install a DCIM system
  • Integrate multiple systems, for example, through a building automation system (BAS)
  • Review operation and efficiency on a regular basis
  • Train/raise awareness of energy efficiency opportunities among key staff

Featured Resources

Accessing Onboard Server Sensors for Energy Efficiency in Data Centers

Monitoring data center energy use at an aggregated level, as well as at the system level can provide data center owners and operators with critical insight that in turn, can help them reduce energy use. This report focuses on how monitoring data center servers can reduce energy consumption and enable more cost-effective operation. Access the report.

Data Center Metering and Resource Guide

This guide describes how to measure power usage effectiveness (PUE), an industry-standard metric for energy efficiency in data centers. PUE is the ratio of total energy use to that of energy used by information technology (IT) equipment, which provides insight into how much energy is used for power delivery components, cooling equipment, lighting and other support systems compared to IT energy use. Access the guide.

Data Center Master List of Efficiency Actions 

This comprehensive list of recommended efficiency actions for data centers provides more information on the high-level best practices outlined above as well as a more detailed list of best practices related to cooling air and air management. Access the Master List.

Building the Business Case for Energy Efficiency in Data Centers

This resource is designed to help project champions identify underlying drivers for data center energy efficiency, engage and win over key stakeholders, and overcome barriers as they build the business case for driving improvements in their data center. Access the module