How Data Centers are Going Green
The latest trend in date centers is to go green and for good reasons, too. The main focus of “going green” is to reduce energy costs by reducing the requirement for cooling. This is not just environment-friendly, but since energy costs are a significant chunk of operating costs, data centers can reduce their overheads substantially.
The prerequisite towards going green in data centers is regular and proactive monitoring of the energy usage. While simply logging the electricity meters helps to some extent, coming up with a metric that explains the energy efficiency of the data center would allow data centers to quantify their savings and efficiency improvements. A good option is to benchmark eBay’s “miles per gallon” measurement, which divides the total number of kilowatt hours consumed by the total number of transactions processed, making it possible to link energy cost and revenue directly.
Monitoring energy usage facilitates the following, among other things:
- Identify inefficient equipment or the least efficient equipment, allowing the data center to replace them with better energy-efficient units.
- Manipulate the air flow to reduce cooling costs. Data centers in cold locations could funnel ambient air vented in from surrounding offices to sealed server cabinets, and shunt the hot air coming off the servers through chimneys back into the building’s heating and air conditioning system.
- Very often, shifting to more energy efficient equipment, such as virtualized servers, would reduce heat and energy usage.
"Green" can be ingrained into the data center architecture itself. Here are some ways to do that:
- In hot tropical climates, reducing the building's solar gain helps to reduce the energy required for cooling. The way to reduce the building’s solar gain is by minimizing direct sun exposure on surfaces. A rectangular-shaped design, where the shorter sides face the direct path of the sun, helps in minimizing the exposure of surface area to direct sunlight.
- For data centers with rooftops, placing various mechanical and electrical equipment, such as power generators, cooling towers and solar panels, on an elevated mesh at the top spares the data center from direct sunlight and reduces heat.
- Opting for modular or containerized data centers, where only the required units are cooled, helps to separate hot and cold air and reduce energy demands.
Energy costs are one of the biggest overheads of a data center, and green initiatives help data centers reduce these costs by 10 to 15%. In a highly competitive industry, data centers can pass on these cost savings to their clients, who in turn can reduce the costs for end-customers, which creates a win-win situation across the value chain.
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