The Greening of the Data Center

Julius Neudorfer

In walking through the main exhibit hall of the Uptime 2010 Symposium in New York City this week, I felt as if it was a case of, 'Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose data center is the greenest of them all?' Clearly it was taken for granted that if you were at Uptime, you already knew that downtime was bad. 

The event was well attended and busy, the sessions were very full, many of the 'green' sessions were standing-room-only, and the exhibit hall was packed with vendors. It would seem that despite -- or perhaps because of -- the current economic situation, everyone was finally aware that data centers need to be more efficient.

Almost all the tracks covered or featured efficiency, sustainably and energy measurement and management directly or indirectly.  Even the 'Availability and Continuity' track highlighted the challenge with this question:  'How can the industry improve reliability and increase energy/cost efficiency at the same time?'

Of course as the old adage goes, 'You cannot manage what you cannot measure,' and many vendors were offering systems, both software and hardware, to help measure and manage energy use and efficiency. 

Another area that seemed to be part of the trend: More vendors were offering containment solutions to improve the efficiency and density of cooling systems.  Along that line, in a last-minute surprise, one of the Green IT Awards was given to Optimal Data Center (ODC)  for a most unique solution, a fabric curtain (yes, literally a curtain) system to help retrofit existing installations. It allows different size cabinets, which would not permit the use of a fixed-size, aisle-based containment system to be installed. So perhaps when we think who turn to design our next energy-efficient data center, we may we be thinking of ODC or perhaps even to the great French fashion houses (Chanel, YSL, etc) for our 'curtains.'

In a Technology Innovation presentation entitled, 'The Data Center as a Smart Grid,' given by Virdity Energy, EDSA and Hewlett-Packard, they foresee the data center of the future as an entity that sells excess generating power back to the grid. Rather than have all those backup generators just sitting idle, ready to ensure non-stop computing, they want to tie into the new 'smart grid' and run the backup generators to provide power to the utility and effectively profit from the highest peak rates. In effect, they want to go one step beyond running back-generators during times of peak power demand to lower utility costs; they want to make money selling power to the grid when the rates are highest.  

In the 'going to extremes category', Green Revolution Cooling was showing its 'deep fryer' for servers, which involves a large tank of dielectric fluid used to actually submerge your servers (after removing the fans) to keep them cool.  

Even some states are getting into the act. The New York State Energy Research and Development Agency hosted a session to explain how to get funding assistance for New York data centers. But if your data centers are in California, you may the first of those sites to be raided by the 'efficiency police' as that state considers more stringent energy-management requirements for data centers. However, even if you are not yet in the crosshairs of the your state government, the Environmental Protection Agency might not be far behind with federal incentives for those sites that improve their power usage effectiveness (PUE ) ratings or penalize those that fall below a mandated efficiency standard. Note that the first Energy Star for Data Centers will be released in June.

And just in case you were not getting the message, even the color scheme of the Uptime Official Program Guide was -- you guessed it -- green.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 21, 2010 7:05 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
Julius; PUE stands for Power Usage Effectiveness not "power usage effficiency". What exact "first" will be released in June for Energy Star? Reply

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