Cloud services providers are making enormous strides in data center efficiency. Take, for instance, Microsoft.
“Today, Microsoft delivers more than 200 online services to 1+ billion customers and 20 million businesses in over 76 markets worldwide,” posts Brian Janous, Utility Architect, Data Center Advanced Development, at the Microsoft Global Foundations Services Blog. And that takes a lot of data centers and electricity.
The company handling that demand and making big gains in curbing its energy and resource consumption by advancing areas like efficient modular data centers, cooling systems and water use.
He explains, “our latest air-cooled data centers in Iowa, Ireland, Virginia, and Washington are designed to use 1-3 percent of the water required for a traditional data center, and the only water loss in these new systems is through evaporation, resulting in no waste water.” And as of July 1st, the company committed to be carbon neutral, meaning that it’s adopting a lot of renewable energy — both in-house and via suppliers — to keep things green and achieve a low PUE of 1.05 to 1.15.
Janous admits that Microsoft currently maintains backup diesel generators — although the company is transitioning to fuel cells. Judging by a new report in The New York Times, the company may want to pick up the pace on that project.
Industry Chokes on Diesel
In his report on data centers, James Glanz, exposes some uncomfortable facts that fly in the face of many a cloud provider’s eco-friendly image. “In Silicon Valley, many data centers appear on the state government’s Toxic Air Contaminant Inventory, a roster of the area’s top stationary diesel polluters,” he reports.
Amazon, the e-tailing giant turned cloud behemoth, has a particularly bad rep over at Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality.
The department is on familiar terms with Amazon. As a result of four inspections beginning in October 2010, the company was told it would be fined $554,476 by the agency for installing and repeatedly running diesel generators without obtaining standard environmental permits required to operate in Virginia.
Tsk. Tsk. And even then, diesel generators don’t always save the day.
Remember a couple of years ago when a truck reportedly crashed into a pole near Amazon’s data center, knocking several sites offline for hours? Yeah, that didn’t happen.
As it turns out, the car accident was mythical, a misunderstanding passed from a local utility lineman to a data center worker to Amazon headquarters. Instead, Amazon said that its backup gear mistakenly shut down part of the data center after what Dominion Virginia Power said was a short on an electrical pole that set off two momentary failures.
Click on over to the NYT data center report. While not exactly shocking revelations for industry watchers, the stories are nonetheless riveting — for eco-geeks, that is.
Image credit: Flickr user getButterfly, Creative Commons