Zinc Whiskers: The Green Data Center Movement
Multi-national corporations are making public commitments to green strategies as a way to advance the sustainable development and operations of their businesses worldwide. The multi-nationals usually provide detailed explanations of how they manage their environmental and sustainability policy in annual reports, including details about the continued development and implementation of their policies and how they addresses global principals.
Many of these giants are now applying their corporate green strategies to their data center portfolios. Their strategies often require en-ergy-efficiency assessments of corporate data centers worldwide. Top management fully expects to see results from the recommendations that come from those audits.
The momentum that these large corporations have created for data center operational and energy efficiencies is rapidly driving us into a new era of server technologies and data center operating strategies. The U.S. government also took a leadership role in developing solutions when President Bush signed new energy legislation into law that gives the Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) directions to guide the way that we design and operate our data centers for many years to come.
So with the federal government and global corporations breaking new ground in the greening of data centers, how can the rest of us with fewer resources get on board?
Already DeployedAstounding new IT solutions are now available in Silicon Valley. Chip manufacturers have developed multi-core, interlaced (or threaded) processors that far exceed the processing speeds and efficiencies in data centers today. Virtualization products allow us to take advantage of the full capacity of our technology by compacting more applications onto fewer processors. And new high-density servers and appliances enable the further consolidation of our operations into many fewer and smaller boxes.
Implementing all these measures leads to a much more efficient IT infrastructure and makes a lot of current data center space obsolete. Sun Microsystems (www.sun.com/datacenter/consolidation/index.jsp), for example, just released the results of its “Server Consolidation” methodology to minimize data center space and power and cooling. HP recently consolidated its global data center portfolio into six major modularized facilities. And now it plans to deploy its “Dynamic Smart Cooling” technology (http://h71028.www7.hp.com/enterprise/cache/434556-0-0-197-470.html), which uses an instrumentation and controls approach to continuously optimize the performance and energy costs of their HVAC systems. Dell and IBM have also developed unique methods to help their customers save energy in their data center facilities.
The California Energy Commission and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group energy committee (www.svlg.net/events/altenergy0409/) are financing technology demonstrations at several sites. Network Appliance in Sunnyvale, CA., for example, is proving the value of segregating HVAC supply and return air flows. They have accomplished this by dropping plastic sheets from the ceiling to fully enclose the hot aisles in its data center. This physical barrier fully prevents the recirculation of hot air and accurately controls server inlet temperatures. They have been able to elevate supply air temperatures to about 70˚F, saving a lot of energy in mechanical plant operations.
Network Appliance is also able to greatly increase its use of airside economizers because of the higher supply air temperatures, resulting in exceptional HVAC energy savings. And they have demonstrated all this in a legacy data center without compromising the integrity of their fire protection systems. Network Appliance estimates that it may save a megawatt of power over the next year in a five thousand square foot space. Visit www.californiaenergyefficiency.com/pge/2035.pdf.
Fujitsu (www.fujitsu.com/us/news/pr/20070817-01.html) inaugurated its first data center fuel cell in Santa Clara, CA, on Aug. 17. The system continuously provides 50% of the facility’s mechanical plant electricity needs.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories (LBNL) (www.lbl.gov/Community/CRT/documents/CRT_Fact_Sheet_Final.pdf) is designing a new Computational Research and Theory supercomputing facility in Berkeley, CA. The facility is intended to serve as a model of energy efficiency for all data centers and computational facilities across the country. LBNL is said to be considering a combination of some of the most aggressive mechanical and electrical plant energy solutions available.
Finally, an unidentified Internet giant in the neighborhood is said to be developing a “fan free” natural convection air circulation system to cool its servers.
Government StandardsGovernment-funded standards development is now in progress and producing promising preliminary results. Programs include federal and state-funded efforts that are very much in line with EPA recommendations. That is, the standards are being developed in a collaborative manner that involves all facets of the data center community … from owners and operators to consultants and vendors and politicians.
DOE has tasked LBNL’s Research & Development Group with creating a data center energy-efficiency audit program. DOE intends to encourage us to take this audit program into each of our IT facilities and make some real improvements starting in 2008. DOE’s “Save Energy Now” program will allow data center operators and owners to assess their facility efficiencies, to receive solutions updates, and to join technical working groups. More information about the program can be viewed online at www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/saveenergynow/partnering_data_centers.html.
EPA’s Energy Star Program for Buildings is being amended to include data center facilities. Ratings are a function of the building type and operating characteristics. So, although the program is still under development, I expect to see rating systems for different types of data centers. Take a look at the Energy Star website: www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=new_bldg_design.new_bldg_design guidance.
The Green Grid is a consortium of U.S. corporate and institutional stakeholders dedicated to the development of reasonable standards for monitoring, measuring, and managing energy efficiency in data centers. DOE and the Grid are collaborating to improve energy efficiency by educating IT managers on the technical implementation of a greener data center and the associated financial benefits. As part of a Memorandum of Understanding, the two organizations will develop a set of best practices and guidelines to help improve energy efficiency in their data centers. Their intention is to establish guidelines that can be used across the globe and integrated into other national programs. Europe already has organizations working on IT and data center energy efficiency, including the UK’s Green Technology Initiative.
LEED Certifications are a good measure of the environmental standards with which buildings are constructed and operated, but they have little to do with energy efficiency in a data center environment. You will realize greater economic value by demonstrating compliance with the California Energy Commission’s Recommended Program for Data Center LEED Certification. The CEC program is now under development by an integrated group of corporate, institutional, and government experts and is expected to be ready sometime in 2008.
Get Up to Speed
Becoming more closely associated with the various organizations that will drive change in the future is a good way to prepare for the innovation and best practices coming down the pike. Having a corporate representative on The Green Grid allows a company to keep in close contact with changes at the highest level. More junior staff can get involved with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and The Critical Facilities Round Table in California, and 7x24, AFCOM, and Data Center Dynamics activities all across the country. Finally, developing a strategic relationship with a world-class consultant with good practical experience and familiarity with government organizations will round out a good energy-efficiency team.
On December 17, the Critical Facilities Round Table (CFRT) (www.cfroundtable.org) participated in Mission Critical Magazine’s webinar with DOE’s Paul Scheihing and ICF International’s Rebecca Duff, who did a great job standing in for the EPA’s Andrew Fanara. The CFRT group will support their ongoing activities and objectives by bringing the opinions of data centers owners and operators into the process of developing programs for DOE’s “Save Energy Now” and EPA’s “Energy Star” ratings for data center facilities.
CFRT is a non-profit organization, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, dedicated to information sharing and solutions development amongst our member owners and operators of critical facilities. Please visit our Web site at www.cfroundtable.org or contact us at 415-748-0515 for more information.