In the previous entry, we discussed some basic tips for running a more sustainable data center, and one that saves you money in the process. The cost of running any data center is bound to be significant even if everything is running smoothly. But the second something goes wrong – as in, for instance, a sudden outage – you can guarantee the accrual of substantial costs. A 2013 Ponemon study, for instance, found that the average cost of a center outage sits at roughly $700,000 – or between $45 and $95 per square foot of data center space. Numbers like these clearly point to the need for all data centers, regardless of the size or scale of their operations, to implement the best practices for keeping the center safe, optimally functional and environmentally sustainable. Here are more tips as for keeping costs low in the data center while maintaining a commitment to energy efficiency. Following these suggestions will not only lead to a more sustainable center, but can also help prevent a calamity like an outage from arising:
Evaluate air conditioners within the facility and improve efficiency. Air conditioners are part and parcel of any data center – except for those that use natural means of cooling. Without some kind of cooling apparatus in place, a data center will quickly overheat, rendering the machinery damaged and leading to an outage. While HVAC resources are essential to data center operations, an industry report pointed out that they can be modified and regulated to be as efficient as possible. This can be done through the enactment of compressor technology, which “offers a newer way to precisely match capacity and power consumption to the desired load and can deliver significantly lower energy consumption compared to standard ‘fixed-capacity’ compressors,” the industry report stated.
The way a compressor works is by operating in stages that match the functionality of the data center. Thus, the compressor ensures that only the required amount of energy is being used at any given moment, which prevents the kind of HVAC overload that’s common to so many data centers and that not only racks up huge energy bills, but harms the environment as well.
Raise the floor and pump in refrigerant. Heat may rise, but the same principle does not apply to cool air. In data centers, this often creates a conundrum wherein cool air that should be reaching all heights of the center’s racks is largely confined to the bottom racks. This is becoming more and more of a problem, especially because data centers these days are literally growing up, and the move toward taller racks must be matched by a commensurate cooling solution. One means of rectifying this problem centers around the creation of raised floors. What a raised floor leads to is more even distribution of cool air, so that it’s not only the machinery at the bottom of the rack that’s getting optimally cooled. In turn, this helps create a more sustainable infrastructure, since by evenly distributing cool air, data centers substantially lessen the risk of a costly and environmentally damaging outage.
Another solution to making sure heat is evenly disseminated involves pumping in refrigerant cooling, which can provide an important supplement to the cool air that’s being funneled through the floor. As the industry paper points out, the introduction of the refrigerant solution “has a number of advantages, including increased cooling system scalability, greater flexibility and improved energy efficiency.”
- Aim for renewable energy whenever possible: We live in a world where renewable energy sources are bountiful, and when it comes to the leveraging of such technologies, there are few candidates so clearly suited for these resources as data centers, according to Environmental Leader. Many data centers already use such technologies, and therefore should be looked to as models. At AISO.net’s center in California, for instance, the entire facility is run via solar power, according to Data Center Knowledge. Solar energy also plays a central role in keeping Emerson Network Power’s data center in St. Louis up and running. In both of these cases, the enactment of solar energy technology certainly took some funds and planning. But it is in every way an investment for the future, and all other data centers out there are advised to look to places like AISO and Emerson as benchmarks to aspire to as data centers pursue an increasingly sustainable path.
There are no two ways around it: Data centers are invariably going to cost significant amounts of money and energy. But they can certainly be expending less on both of those fronts if the proper conservation-based strategies are put into place. By running a sustainable center, data center administrators can rest easy knowing that they’re not only making the most environmentally-conscious choice, but also the choice that’s best for business.