"Greening Your Data Center: The Real Deal," an article on eWeek.com by Matthew Sarrel, reports on the interesting current phenomenon in IT, the "greening" of the data center. Striving after ever bigger market share is only part of the motive in this game, Sarrel writes. The other elements involve being able to offer customers both reduced carbon footprints and reduced IT costs as well.
IBM has just completed what it bills as "the world's greenest data center" in conjunction with New York State and Syracuse University, a data center that features on-site power generation, heating and cooling and the latest in IBM's energy-efficient servers, computer cooling technology and system management software.
Sarrel asks an interesting question about current data center design practices: Where does the green-washing end and the business case begin. And he points out that there are several aspects to the question that must be considered in coming up with an answer.
First of all, he recommends, data centers should be built to address both current and future needs, which can only be accomplished by incorporating elements of flexibility, modularity and scalability into the design.
Sarrel also recommends configuring the data center so that similar types of equipment are grouped together to enable easier management and so that cooling operations can be organized in terms of isolated zones as opposed to cooling the entire facility when that might not be necessary.
It is important, too, to keep an eye on energy consumption, Sarrel continues. Here he recommends using the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) measure developed by The Green Grid. He explains both this method and his preference for it over the alternative Corporate Average Datacenter Efficiency (CADE) measure.
Continuing on the theme of cost cutting, Sarrel points out that server consolidation and virtualization allow for more dense racks and fewer square feet of real estate to accommodate them.
"The denser the data center, the more efficient it can be, especially if we’re talking in terms of construction costs per square foot: With the average data center costing $200 to $400 per square foot to construct, if you can cut the size of your data center by 75 percent, you could save significant construction costs -- perhaps ranging into the millions of dollars," he notes.
With greater rack density comes the requirement for greater power, which produces more heat. Sarrel's recommendation in this instance is to employ either water or forced air for cooling. In the case of the IBM/Syracuse University data center mentioned above, Sarrel says that exhaust heat is converted to chilled water that is then run through cooling doors on each rack.
One hallmark of the data center design of old -- the raised floor -- is on its way out, Sarrel observes, explaining that the cooled air inside a data center sinks to beneath the raised floor where it does no good at all. Keeping cabling in view simplifies both reconfiguration and maintenance and, further, eliminates the need to consider load bearing factors in the design of data center floors.
Finally, in the interest of more efficient energy utilization, Sarrel recommends converting from AC to DC in the powering of data centers. This eliminates the numerous and costly down conversion steps involved between the 16,000 volt utility pad and the 110 volts of AC the equipment must further convert to 5 and 12 DC bolts.
"All of this conversion wastes up to 50 percent of electricity and generates excess heat," he points out.
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