Maintaining the Green Data Center Momentum

Arthur Cole
Randy Ortiz

Randy Ortiz
Vice President of data center design and engineering, Internap

It was probably inevitable that the buzz surrounding green IT would fade as industry matured, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. According to Internap’s Randy Ortiz, it only means that energy efficiency and resource conservation are making the transition from special initiative to standard data center practice. As he explains in a conversation with IT Business Edge’s Arthur Cole, there are numerous ways in which green technology can be implemented, both in new facilities and renovations. And since the combined ROI of many practices is so good, there is always an incentive to go green.

With Randy Ortiz, vice president of data center design and engineering, Internap.

Cole: There is some question as to whether the IT industry's commitment to green technology is as robust as it once was. Having just opened a LEED Gold certified facility in L.A., how would you describe the state of the green data center?

Ortiz: I think the novelty has worn off a bit around green technology, and it’s finally becoming more of a standard practice. Data center owners and operators recognize the cost savings advantages associated with green technology, procedures and design. We’re also seeing energy-efficiency requirements appear more and more in customer RFPs, particularly with larger organizations that have their own corporate sustainability efforts. We tend to see more demand in certain geographic regions, such as the Pacific Northwest. This was one of the reasons digital music service Rhapsody chose our Seattle facility. Other regions where we see strong interest include Silicon Valley and Dallas.

I believe the new challenge or bar-setting will be around achieving high-caliber certifications like LEED Gold and Platinum for data center builds and maintaining them. We now design all new data centers and expansion space, where possible, with these goals in mind. Both our Dallas and L.A. facilities have achieved LEED Gold, as well as Green Globes and Energy Star ratings. We also hold combinations of these certifications at our other facilities, including Atlanta and Santa Clara, and we’re aiming for LEED Gold at our new Secaucus, New Jersey facility, which is set to open later this year.

Cole: What are some of the most innovative green technologies deployed in Los Angeles?

Ortiz: In recent years, L.A. has made a concerted effort around green practices to create a sustainable city and to become a leader in green technology. In the latest annual index released by research firm Clean Edge, L.A. ranked fourth among U.S. cities leading clean technology growth.

At Internap, we’re always evolving to ensure we’re keeping up with the latest in green building and energy-efficient technologies. With respect to innovation, we believe that monitoring has become one of the most important features related to data center efficiency and is getting some of the least attention as a green technology. If you can’t monitor what you have, then you also can’t determine how to make it efficient. The monitoring system in our L.A. data center utilizes a system that can determine the operation of any infrastructure system all the way down to the customer’s power utilization. It is here that operators are investing in an evolving sector that is now catching up to its own importance.

Cole: Does it seem that the most significant gains in energy efficiency can only be achieved in newly built facilities these days? What is the outlook for retrofitting existing infrastructure?

Ortiz: Retrofitting an existing data center to become energy efficient is a challenge; however, there are many examples from equipment replacement to expansions and full-blown renovations within a live environment that are very successful energy efficient stories. Yes, the opportunities may not be as great as a new build, but that shouldn’t deter those who wish to improve their bottom line by renovating an existing data center.

For example, we were able to incorporate green elements into every aspect of the ground-up build at our L.A. facility – from interior and exterior design and equipment to operations and processes. The results include a 47 percent reduction in energy use, a 41 percent reduction in potable water use, renewable sources for 100 percent of its electricity needs, and reusing 99 percent of the exterior structural components.

The reality is that companies weigh the return on investment and risk in renovating or expanding a new data center for the sake of efficiency. It is more likely that the need for more space or an opportunity to replace aging equipment forces the data center operations team to consider efficiency while making the replacements.

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