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5 Steps to a Green Data Center

By Jens Struckmeier

The global green IT services market is expected to reach $7.2B by 2020, reflecting a compound annual growth rate of nearly 6 percent over the forecast period. This growth trend is largely attributable to green data center initiatives launched by enterprises looking to not only reduce their carbon footprint, but also manage rising energy costs. 

There are many factors that drive data center cost savings and reduced environmental impact, including design, materials, waste recycling, and alternative energy technologies. Organizations can successfully build and implement green data center initiatives that maximize efficiency and return on investment by following these five steps: 

1. Conduct a Baseline Energy Audit 

Any green data center initiative should start with a baseline energy audit. The baseline audit provides both a real-time assessment of usage and efficiency and a benchmark for future assessments to guide long term planning. 

Because data centers are comprised of a variety of diverse and interconnected systems, it's critical to drill down into individual systems to pinpoint where inefficiencies reside within the infrastructure. From there, the energy audit assesses the impact of these inefficiencies on total usage and outlines a tangible and trackable remediation plan. 

2. Select Green-Friendly Materials and Environmental Attributes

Many factors support less energy usage and a smaller carbon footprint, including compact building, low emission materials, waste recycling, and alternative energy sources for power and cooling.  Changes like upgrading air compressors, shutting down dormant servers, paper shredding, and transitioning to LED lighting can make a big impact over time. 

Organizations further save by building data centers using locally sourced renewable resources to power servers and building in naturally cold locations to take advantage of free cooling. With respect to energy efficiency specifically, it's estimated that these improvements collectively will save 620B kWh between 2010 and 2020. 

3. Prioritize the Reduction of Data Center Power Usage

While location and materials selection significantly affect environmental impact, data center power use is the primary driver of variable cost. Gartner estimates that ongoing power costs are steadily rising at 10 percent per year due to a combination of an increase in cost per kilowatt-hour and growing demand attributable to high power density servers. Currently, the report states, power costs comprise 10 percent of data center's OpEx, and they are projected to increase to 15 percent within five years.

To reduce data center power use, it's critically important to lower the amount of energy required to power the IT equipment. In fact, 60 percent of payload power is consumed by servers. To decrease this power drain, data center managers should focus on consolidating and virtualizing workloads, eliminating powered servers that are dormant, and replacing old servers with newer models.     

4. Optimize Data Center Cooling

While building data centers in naturally cold environments contributes significantly to more efficient data center cooling, data center facility managers can amplify this effect by installing outside air economizers that draw from the natural environment instead of a power source for cooling. Optimizing air conditioning through using an alternative cooling source and continuously adjusting the speed to match real-time requirements can make a significant impact on power use. 

Additionally, isolation structures contain the data center equipment that generates the most heat, siphoning the heat to other parts of the building while funneling the excess out of the building. 

5. Design Modular Data Centers

Prefabricated data center solutions accelerate the speed of business through delivering modular packages for data center facility managers.  These pre-engineered solutions target specific parameters, including deployment speed, performance, reliability, and cost reduction. 

The pre-fabricated approach both increases the predictability and minimizes the organizational disruption of the build process because the bulk of the construction occurs in the factory and not in the field. Additionally, modular datacenters like those in remodeled shipping containers provide organizations more flexibility for satisfying their computation demand while saving the resources and space required to build an entirely new data center. Once purchased, the vendor delivers pre-configured and tested modules to the customer typically within 12-16 weeks.

Building a green data center starts with pinpointing and addressing inefficiencies in the infrastructure. Smart choices around green-friendly materials and location attributes will also make a significant impact over time. Prioritizing the reduction of data center power usage will drive the bulk of the cost savings associated with green design, and modular prefabricated solutions have these efficiencies built in and can be installed with minimal disruption. By following these five steps, data center facility managers can make significant progress on both decreasing environmental impact and lowering power costs.

Jens Struckmeier is a founder and CTO of Cloud&Heat Technologies GmbH, a startup company founded in 2011 focusing on environmental friendly and cost effective cloud computing. 


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posted on 2/16/2018