Data Centers Seeing Green: Facilities Becoming Energy-efficient

8 Oct 2014 by Technology

Data center demand is increasing all over the world, and so is the cost to maintain one. Not only do organizations have to consider the expenses involved in the building itself, but the energy it takes to maintain well-performing equipment is continually rising. For this reason, many companies are looking to use more environmentally-friendly approaches to their facilities. While most data centers may not be able to go fully green, there are a few efforts being made that show great strides in reducing overall costs and power usage in fully operational setups.

The Green Grid and China

As a nonprofit aimed to improve data center resource efficiency, The Green Grid is launching new ideas in this area to make better use of available resources. According to Data Center Knowledge, the organization’s team in China is using Space Usage Effectiveness (SpUE) to compare the current number of server racks with the number that the facility can accommodate. This measurement is meant to act much like PUE, but will gauge the gap between design and the actual load. Because the amount of space in China is at a premium, SpUE will be very valuable in these instances. However, this does not mean that PUE will be ineffective – it just provides another measure to gauge overall energy use.

The Green Grid’s work may also help with China’s efforts to evaluate data centers on their efficiency. Because China’s data centers take up 1.5 percent of the nation’s total consumption, the Green Grade Assessment was created to measure energy use and what measures are being taken to conserve power. As a major initiative, The Green Grid’s SpUE measurement can help identify areas that can be adjusted for a better rank.

“The real estate portion in the overall data center cost calculation in the U.S. is so small – compared to the cost of energy and electrical and mechanical equipment – it is rarely talked about.” Data Center Knowledge stated. “It is a much bigger consideration in China, however, where available physical space is in short supply and almost always comes at a premium.”

Salesforce gearing for fully green facility

For most organizations, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to pursue a 100 percent green data center. However, this is exactly what Salesforce intends to do with its new facility. The customer relationship management software provider announced that its planned center in France will rely solely on renewable sources, according to SiliconANGLE. This stands as a testament to the company’s 2013 pledge to migrate all infrastructure functions to sustainable power. The facility is set to start up in 2015, along with two other data centers in Europe.

Because the services will be locally hosted, users will see more benefits than just the company’s lessening carbon footprint. Clients can look forward to better support, more reliable services and features that comply with regional regulations. Salesforce will also reap significant advantages like reduced operating costs and an investment in the European market. This will help meet user needs in the region and boost Salesforce’s presence.

“The three data centers are Salesforce’s response to rapidly increasing demand from European customers, which constituted the fastest growing portion of its client base in 2013 with 38 percent more license purchases than the previous year, according to Salesforce,” SiliconANGLE reported. “The push into France holds particular strategic significance for the firm, which recently established a local headquarters as part of a plan to increase investments in the country announced earlier this year.”

Grainger gains LEED certification

Many organizations are taking steps to be more environmentally-conscious, but few are receiving awards and certifications for their efforts. Grainger’s new data center in Lake Forest, Illinois, was recently granted the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation, making it the world’s first facility of this type to be given this distinction. A major reason for this is that the data center is expected to have a PUE rating of 1.2, even while operating at full capacity.

A significant factor for this grade is the fact that Grainger’s facility has a cooling system designed to be efficient. Through managing the air flow and bringing in outside air for cooling, the data center consumes half the amount of energy that comparable facilities use. Because the organization has such a strict and innovative design, there are opportunities for power reduction and cost savings.

“Our goal is always to build the most sustainable facility possible,” said Gail Edgar, vice president of Grainger Real Estate and Facilities Services. “One of the most important components of the project was to realize significant energy savings by maintaining a low Power Usage Effectiveness, which measures the energy used beyond the IT load.”

Data center costs are continually on the rise, and there’s no signs of slowing down. As expenses rack up, organizations should make the effort to discover ways that will reduce their carbon footprint and decrease overhead charges.

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