Building a Green Data Center

May 14, 2007

Image Source: AISO.netPower needs are a growing concern for information technology (IT) needs. A server rack can now draw as much as 30,000 watts. As those servers work, all that energy is turned into heat, and in addition to the energy needed to operate those servers, all of that heat needs to be dealt with or else the electronics will overheat and fail. So data centers are huge consumers of energy, and their demands are increasing.

There are some steps that can be taken. A number of hosting service providers purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) to improve their green presence. And that's a good step, particularly for services that can't directly use renewable energy. But one company takes their commitment to the environment several steps further. They are even the only commercial data services provider that is also a member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). And this has also landed them on Inc. Magazine's Top 50 Green Companies.

Affordable Internet Services Online ( environmental concern extends from their solar power array, which provides 100% of their electrical needs, to the construction of their data center building. The facility is powered by an array of 125 on-site solar panels which power the servers and switches, as well as building lighting and air conditioning, with battery storage for nighttime operation. The facility also has a backup generator and a grid connection, but has only used the latter to sell excess power back to the utility.

Efficiencies throughout the building make it possible for them to operate their facility solely with solar power. Inside, the building is daylit with Solatube daylighting skylights, and night-time illumination is provided by super efficient LEDs. The building is insulated to R-50, (much higher than the average house; a 2×4 stud wall is typically insulated to R-13) with 12" thick walls filled with cellulose insulation, and has a high efficiency cooling system. When night temperatures allow it, the building is opened for natural ventialtion and cooling, rather than relying on mechanical systems at all times. The company is presently working on adding a vegetated roof to its data center to further improve the greenness of their facility.

In addition to having a more efficient building, the facility has also reconfigured their servers, replacing systems that were running only a fraction of their capacity with virtual machines, so that they can maximize their efficiency with fewer machines. This translates to reduced power consumption and helps keep their energy needs low.

The data center is also located in the desert, which allows them to maximize their photovoltaic efficiency. Interestingly, this also helps make their cooling equipment more efficient. They use water-cooled air conditioning units, which increase the efficiency over air cooled units by using water evaporation, which is much more efficient than air transfer of heat. And a water-cooled unit is most efficient in a dry environment such as a desert. Cool night temperatures for natural ventilation cooling are also easier to accomplish in a desert environment.

Their main web page lists the current conditions at the facility, including outdoor temperature humidity, and weather conditions, server room temperature, and even a web-cam view of the solar panels.

Having self-sufficient systems not only allows to lower its power needs, it also makes them less vulnerable to utility problems that can cause problems for other California-based providers.

via: IT Jungle


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