Photo Credit: Flickr user SunGardAvailabilitySvcs – Creative Commons
I’ve been covering Green IT for a while now, but this is the first year I that recall not being able to keep track of all the new green data center announcements. And it’s a good thing. While we have witnessed companies take a piecemeal approach to greening their server farms, 2009 is the year that facilities management, power distribution, HVAC and IT infrastructure finally started to come together and the result is a new breed of world-class data centers that any green geek would be proud to call their virtual home.
Here are some of the companies that helped make 2009 the year of the green data center and are sure to help keep the momentum going in 2010.
i/o Data Centers
How do you keep cool in Arizona? Other data center operators are migrating to cooler climates to free cool their facilities but i/o Data Centers bucks the trend and manages to operate a green data center efficiently and in a part of the country that is known for its relentlessly hot weather.
i/o Data Centers made a splash this year with its its 538,000 square-foot Phoenix ONE facility. Besides giving new life to an old building, the company further built upon its green cred by installing a 4.5 megawatt solar array on its roof. But the real reason the company is included in this list is its approach to cooling servers.
A couple of months ago I spoke with i/o Data Centers’ President and Founder Anthony Wanger and key to achieving low PUE ratings, he says, is to go after the “low-hanging fruit.” Sounds cliche, but it’s a comparatively low cost tactic that’s working for i/o Data Centers. Some of the ways i/o is keeping energy bills in check includes sealed plenums, variable speed air handlers, ultrasonic humidification and a thermal storage system. The latter, comprised partly of a “giant industrial cocktail,” as Wanger puts it, that is kept at 22 degrees at night during cheaper, off-peak hours. When temperatures soar and the load on the grid is the highest, i/o turns off the chillers operates off “stored” cooling.
While discussing some ways IT can help businesses lower their environmental impact and cut energy costs, Wanger rattled off a bucketload of ways from the top of his head like virtualization, efficient cooling and digitization, which act to “decouple economic growth from energy costs.” In that regard, i/o Data Centers is already leading by example.
Fortune Data Centers
Fortune scored a nice customer win with Facebook, but it wouldn’t be possible if the firm didn’t meet with the social networking giant’s standards for energy-efficient computing. It’s part of a business strategy that includes designing facilities with enviable PUE ratings and LEED certification in mind. Rich Miller at Data Center Knowledge writes:
The energy efficiency piece is critical, Sheputis said, because it has quickly become a key decision point for tenants. “One of the major things I’ve seen changing in the business is the focus on efficiency,” he said. “A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought that (energy metrics) would have been this important. It’s taken the industry by storm.”
Google is notoriously secretive about what makes it tick, computationally speaking, but this year it peeled back the curtain a little bit to reveal how the king of search manages to achieve such great PUE ratings. Its secret — or at least one of them — is to put a battery on each server.
With on-board batteries, Google essentially creates a distributed UPS, which in data centers, are costly and complex systems and are subject to efficiencies in the 92-95 percent range. Google’s server design achieves near-100 percent efficiency.
I’ve seen server rooms and modestly-sized data centers, but a visit to IBM’s data center in Poughkeepsie, NY years ago was my first look at a facility that rivaled a big box store in square footage. This was long before the concept of Green IT took hold in mainstream tech circles, and even then, they were touting efficiency (mostly via blades at the time).
Now, they have a hand in dozens of energy efficient data centers, both recently opened and currently in the works. One of the most impressive examples is the new Syracuse University facility. It employs natural gas-fueled microturbines to produce electricity for servers, as well as cooling and heating. Other innovations include water-cooled server racks and DC power distribution, which add up to a data center that is expected to consume half the power of a conventional design.
And IBM’s “Big Green” plans are exploding internationally and dovetailing nicely with cloud computing, which is going to require a whole lot of new global computing facilities in the coming years. A new green data center is going up in New Zealand while another in Korea gets up and running.
Below is an IBM supplied video with some on-site footage of the Syracuse build.
This outfit didn’t make huge news this year, but I’m including it not only because of its 100 percent solar-powered data center, but also because of how religiously the company accounts for every watt consumed by its systems, including servers, storage and desktops. Technically, ‘desktops’ is misleading term since AISO.Net’s CTO Phil Nail has deployed thin clients to spread his energy efficiency gospel to the very edge of his network. Not only does AISO practice what it preaches, it’s been doing it well before energy efficiency became a factor in data center design and management.
I last profiled the company in January so it’s fitting that we come full circle with AISO as 2009 comes to a close.
Happy New Year!